Economics and National Security: Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic through 2026

As the world recovers from the most harmful health effects of COVID-19, many economic and geopolitical implications remain. The first year of the pandemic produced the greatest global recession since the Great Depression, with at least 6 million deaths reported worldwide as of early 2022. In the report Economic and National Security Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic Through 2026, the National Intelligence Council predicts that the next 5 years (as of April 2022) will experience ongoing economic, social, and human security disruptions as a result of the pandemic. At the time the report was written, vaccines were still being rolled out globally, causing uncertain implications to US national security interests.

The report highlights 4 major areas of concern:

  • Economics: “[H]igher debt burdens, constrained government spending, and ongoing disruptions to the labor market probably will contribute to higher risks of financial instability and elevated rates of poverty, particularly in developing countries.”
  • Human Security: “[T]he protection of individuals from threats to their well-being— during the next five years, while stimulating some improvements in global preparedness for future pandemics.”
  • Governance: “Through 2026, the combination of economic and human security challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further strain the capacities of government to meet public demands, thereby exacerbating existing public discontented societal divisions, and raising the risks to democratic governance and political stability in some countries.”
  • Geopolitics: “The pandemic is likely to continue to be exploited by US adversaries to build their influence, probably with limited success; to encourage some US partners and allies to prioritize domestic and regional needs over addressing other international challenges[.]”

 The National Intelligence Council acknowledges the uncertainties of the judgements contained in this report, as they are based on a wide variety of open-source research. With regard to global health, it is expected that the aftershocks of COVID-19 will weaken health systems for years to come. Although the direct threat of the virus is waning, indirect effects are likely to cause ongoing challenges, particularly for developing countries who already struggled to manage disease prior to the pandemic.

Looking ahead to 2026, the report emphasizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated advances in biotechnology and health security. Although the virus revealed shortcomings in many countries’ levels of preparedness, the Council suggests it has greatly increased readiness for future outbreaks.

For more information, check out HSDL’s COVID-19 Resource Archive, and In Focus topic on Reopening after COVID Shutdown.

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