Unprecedented COVID-19 Impacts And Public, Private And Civil Society Role

When the country is fighting for containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging evidence alarm that it has an unprecedented human cost and economic cost. As it is known that the aftermath of the virus brought an extraordinary impact on our lives, this opinion piece analyzes global and national scenarios and its implication to Nepal.

May 18, 2020, 5:32 p.m.

As the true impact of the COVID-19 becomes clear, it is almost ascertained that pandemic is and will have an unprecedented impact to the global and national economy along with its implications on human lives. Especially, the poorest and most vulnerable countries will likely be hit the hardest and poor households will be affected due to economic shocks. The World Bank forecast – the share of the world’s population living on less than $1.90 per day is projected to increase from 8.2% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2020 meaning an estimated 665 million people posed to poverty. Further, the World Food Programme has alarmed that a total of 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.

International Monetary Fund projected that the situation posed by pandemic may worse than the economic recession of 2008. It is estimated that the slowdown of the global economy caused by the coronavirus is between US$2.0 and US$ 4.1 trillion. Similarly, an estimated 55 percent of the global population will have no access to social protection and up to 75 percent of people in the least developed countries lack access to soap and water. A recent update from ILO suggests that transport, accommodation and food services, real estate business, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade sectors have been hit hard. The pandemic is globally causing a dramatic decline in employment –3.3 billion of the workforce will be unemployed. The depth of the unemployment crisis impede by the Pandemic is regarded as the most severe crisis after the Second World War.

Recent ADB outlooks elucidate that the Nepal GDP will shrink from 0.4 percent to 0.13 from based on scenario and growth forecast is projected to slip from 7.1% in 2019 to 5.3% in 2020, due to weak performance in agriculture and tourism. It also further indicates that around 15,880 jobless people. This shows that Pandemic will have adverse effects on agriculture, tourism and slowing remittance.

Although COVID has not spread extensively in Nepal, the Global and Asian markets will have a direct impact on Nepal’s economy and social sector. Since our economy relies heavily on the remittance and service sector, global economic disruptions are likely to impact the economy of the country. It is almost sure that thousands of people will lose jobs; small businesses will be collapsed; mental health may arise and finally, overall human development may be derail. Though there is a lack of systematic evidence in the country it is clear that workers and their families, elderly, farmers and most vulnerable children will be a force for impoverishment.

Further, Pandemic will cause a serious threat to poverty reduction. The ambitious target of reducing poverty by 7 points from 18 to 11 stipulated in the 15th approach paper and Sustainable Development Goals is likely to hit. As poverty reduction requires sufficient resources this is also unlikely to be achieved.

Looking after the multidimensional impacts of COVID-19, a question arises, are we prepared enough to cope with such unprecedented risks? Have sufficient preparation and policy dialogue begun? Can we have a broader public, a private partnership to cope with these crises?

The recovery schemes is yet to be embarked by the government. We have to understand that cost of doing nothing poses an extra burden. In the absence of recovery and rebuilding livelihoods package, the virus will be another source of impoverishment. Thus, it is the first and foremost government responsibility to protect human lives and the economy.

As highlighted by UN Secretary-General, COVID-19 Pandemic is no longer a health crisis but a human crisis, jobs crisis, a humanitarian crisis and a developmental crisis, there is no other way to respond to crisis decisively and in a coordinated manner. The crisis calls for effective, comprehensive policy and programs to address the consequences brought by the pandemic.

Evidence suggests that social safety net, direct cash, or food vouchers for the most vulnerable families, tax-exempt to the small enterprises are viable interventions to help supporting recovery and rebuilding livelihoods. Lessons from the Ebola virus suggests that cash transfer is effective social protection measures that a country can opt immediately. Their experiences also resemble that partnering with non-state partners is critically important to address the scale of the impact. A study by World Bank shows that after pandemic one hundred countries have adopted different models scaling up cash transfer schemes.

Considering the magnitude of the pandemic, the government cannot work alone hence public, private and civil society partnership is first and foremost. A collaboration with development partners, international non-government organizations is also equally important as they bring evidence-informed innovation and expertise. It is in government custody that they can invite development partners and civil society to switch their funds and priority towards recovery and rebuilding of livelihoods. In regard to the mobilization of international non-government organizations rather than opening doors for all, the government can invite the international or local organizations who are specialized in the implementation of social safety nets, including shock-responsive against economic crises. Evidence also suggests that near-term impact assessment is crucial so that data can be utilized for apportioning funding and design interventions, this is the area where non-state partners can immediately start work.

All three tiers of governments can start to work on targeting the socio-economic and livelihood recovery package that will bridge the gaps until long terms solutions are unveiled. Among many choices, the upcoming fiscal year policy and budget can be dedicated to enabling the economy and livelihoods of the affected citizens. In the meantime, the government has to start to adjust the prevailing policies and programs in the changed context.

He is doing PhD in Tribhuvan University and works at WVIN

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