We’ve almost reached the mid of 2020, and looking at the global situation right now, it will be an understatement to say that COVID-19 has brought our lives to a standstill. The pandemic has taken the lives of lakhs of people, paralyzed the global healthcare infrastructure, and crippled the global economy. What’s alarming is that the numbers are increasing exponentially, bringing new challenges every day.
Even though both government and healthcare professionals are tirelessly working to tackle the COVID-19 situation, things don’t seem to be promising at the moment. The lockdown and social distancing measures have hit the informal sector workers and members of the low-income groups.
They have no work, which means there’s no source of income for them and their dependents. According to the International Labour Organization, in India, nearly 400 million people stand at the risk of spiralling deeper into the clutches of poverty. The New York Times reported the dire situation of India’s migrant workers:
“Long lines of migrant workers streamed out of recently closed railway stations, with thousands of men, almost none wearing masks, marching close together to far-off villages, potentially spreading the virus deep into the countryside.”
In January this year, the International Monetary Fund had projected India’s growth forecast for 2020-21 at 5.8%, but now, it has dropped down to 1.9% – a drastic low. Kristalina Georgieva, the present IMF chief, states that our financial systems are much more resilient now. However, since it is impossible to say for how long the crisis will last, she further stated:
“Under any scenario, the global growth in 2020 will drop below last year’s level. How far it will fall, and for how long, is difficult to predict and would depend on the epidemic, but also on the timeliness and effectiveness of our actions.”
During the economic crisis of 2008, India’s economy remained well afloat and steady, thanks to the country’s internal buffers – the GDP growth slipped only by 2% (from 8.5% to 6.5%). The pandemic, however, has cut deeper into our economy that was recovering from the effects of demonetization. The three major sectors of the economy – agriculture, business, service, and tourism – have taken the hit worse than the others.
How, then, should we tackle the situation after lockdown?
In India’s COVID-19 journey so far, we’ve been able to curb and limit the spread of the deadly virus by practising strict social distancing norms, by harnessing the power of health science, pharmaceuticals, and technology, and by creating mass public awareness through digital media. But this is not enough.
Here’s how we should move forward in our battle against COVID-19:
1. Create a robust and efficient healthcare system
Now that we’re grappling with a pandemic, we understand how crucial the healthcare infrastructure is for any country. In India, we need a cohesive healthcare system where both the private and public HCPs will cooperate to offer best-in-class medical services to the citizens of the nation.
There must be increased funding to expand the equipment base of hospitals and nursing homes. Most importantly, the government, in collaboration with HCPs, must design affordable healthcare policies to provide healthcare (at least primary healthcare) for all.
2. Focus on universal welfare
Each time India faces a challenge on the global, national, or regional level, the worst affected are always the lower-income groups, including informal sector workers, migrant labourers, and farmers.
This section of the population receives the maximum economic blow, and hence, they need proper social safety nets like access to credit, welfare schemes, and insurance schemes. Employment guarantee and comprehensive income schemes can be excellent tools to help them bounce back from challenging situations.
3. Reinforce the informal sector and agricultural sector
It may sound astonishing, but the informal sector employs over 90% of India’s workforce. So, it will be wrong to assume that once the present crisis passes, the organized sector will lift our drowning economy. The informal and agricultural industries will help achieve this feat.
Post-COVID-19, the significant economic boost will come from micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) throughout the country. State governments must take initiatives to register these small-scale enterprises and allot funds to them so that they can re-launch again. As of now, the Indian government has allocated INR 750 billion for MSMEs.
When the local governments (at the panchayat, municipal, and district levels) begin to infuse funds in the agriculture sectors and MSMEs, it will enable small farms and businesses to grow. The local-level authorities must become the new hubs for distributing the central and state resources at the grassroots level. These actions will allow farmers, agricultural workers, and small-scale business owners to become self-sufficient.
4. Implement actionable fiscal solutions for economic recovery
In times like this, adequate monetary solutions and policies are the perfect tools to boost the government’s recovery and resilience efforts. Recently, the Indian government announced an economic stimulus of INR 1.7 trillion ($24 billion). While this stimulus package will be dedicated to the upliftment of various sectors of the industry, it also supposedly includes plans for MSMEs, small farmers, non-bank lenders, employees, migrant workers, and power distribution companies, among other things.
It is essential to re-think and re-construct the way we conduct our day-to-day lives. While work-from-home has led to a radical shift in workplace ethics, business owners and companies should also make their workplace COVID-19 compliant. Mandatory health checks and social distancing measures must be put in place. This will ensure the welfare of employees and create a safe working environment for them.
Also read: Opportunities Amidst Covid-19 Adversity
By taking these steps, we can ensure that our economy gets back on track. It is important to remember that this is a long recovery process that needs the collaboration of the citizens, government, and the private sector. Although our path is long, if we take the right steps, we will surely bounce back to a better tomorrow.
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