COVID-19 situation in subcontinent different from that of West: Imran Khan to World Economic Forum

Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing World Economic Forum.
Source: APP

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that the experience of the developed world in terms of coronavirus outbreak is quite different from the experience of the developing world.

While addressing the World Economic Forum, he said that in countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh especially the subcontinent, our experience is very different. We are not experiencing the same sort of speed at which the Covid-19 is spreading in European countries and the United States, he added.

He said that we had to face twin challenges; first, to stop the growth of the virus causing deaths and then resulting in the imposition of lock-down; secondly, the bigger challenge to mitigate the effects of the lock-down with the rising poverty.

He further said that in Pakistan we have 25 million people who are daily wagers, get paid weekly or are self-employed, and when we lockdown, all these people get unemployed at once. By 25 million people, we mean 25 million families so almost 150 million people are collectively affected by this lockdown and face poverty, he added. So, what we did was a cash transfer program that touched 15 million families to mitigate the effects of the lock-down, he said.

As this is a temporary solution so, despite the fact that the number of coronavirus cases is rising in Pakistan, we are easing the lockdown, he added.

We have started opening our businesses and our construction industry so that people may find employment because there is no way that the government may fulfill the needs of all the people, he said adding that here we need to be careful about the spread of the virus as well but, on the other hand, if don’t ease the lock-down, we have millions of people facing starvation.

H said that not only the developing world but also the Western countries were trying to create a balance by easing the lock-down to support their economies.

He also said that one thing that we have realized for the coming year that we have to live with this virus unless some vaccine comes out.

Keeping this thing in view, we have developed a volunteer force of one million people who will work with the already overburdened administration to encourage the people for not having gatherings.

Talking about the country’s financial situation, he said that just before the virus hit us, we had managed to balance our twin budgets, the current account deficit, and fiscal deficit, after a very painful series of reforms. We were actually hoping growth in the economy, he added saying that the coming year is not difficult for us only rather it has become a global challenge now and response towards it should also be global.

He specifically mentioned that we have also established a National Command and Control Center where the situation in the country is continuously monitored.

Responding to question about economic relief, he said that a lot of developing countries are facing a problem that, because of the debt servicing, their fiscal space is very much contracted and they are unable to upgrade their health facilities. So, the reason behind asking for the debt relief is that we need that fiscal space to divert our resources to the health facilities and also to the environment.

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