Meeting reviews COVID-19’s economic impacts

By Staff Reporter
Wednesday – April 29, 2020
ISLAMABAD: A high-level meeting, Tuesday, underlined several challenges the country was likely to face on the economic front due to the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the national, regional and global economy, the meeting agreed that while it was too early to predict the impact of COVID-19 but if the crisis persisted then the manufacturing and service sectors, as well as the exports, were likely to be severely affected, in the year 2020, while agriculture growth was likely to remain intact in Pakistan.

According to an official statement, the meeting was chaired by the adviser to the prime minister on finance and revenue (A-PM-FR) Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and attended by leading development partners, including world bank (WB), Asian development bank (ADB), department for international development (DFID) and the united nations development programme (UNDP).

The participants of the meeting also predicted that due to an extended economic crisis, the fiscal deficit could rise to 9.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) while the impact on the poverty figures could also be higher due to closure of businesses and restricted economic activity due to the lockdown situation.

In a worst-case scenario, the growth rate could remain negative at ‘-1.57’ percent of the GDP.

During the meeting, it was pointed out that the COVID-19 crisis had drastically affected the global economy that could shrink by three per cent.

Similarly, it was also felt that there will be negative growth throughout 2020 and the chances of recovery were expected from the start of 2021.

The meeting underlined the need for pursuance of a clear, transparent and unified plan of action combining a “whole of the country” approach backed by necessary constitutional measures to sail out of the crisis.

Expenditure rationalisation, particularly reduction of low-impact spending, and revenue generation were also emphasised as key areas of focus in coming months.

It was felt that the construction sector could provide the key for resurgence of the economic activity.

The meeting also warned against the relaxation of the lockdown which could further increase the infection rate and put unbearable burden on the healthcare system which was already finding it hard to provide regular healthcare services due to increased focus on dealing with the COVID-19.

It was suggested that Pakistan will be required to “reset and reboot” its economy to get above the red-line.

It was felt that the second tranche of cash grants to those vulnerable segments who were adversely affected by the lockdown and closure of businesses will be required to further the relief efforts.

ADB informed the meeting that they are interested in giving local currency loan to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) adversely affected by this crisis.

It was also noted in the meeting that the speed, efficiency, and transparency with which Pakistan has already disbursed more than 75 billions to its millions of vulnerable population is unprecedented not only in Pakistan but in the entire region and such a thing was unimaginable in recent past of the country.