14.04.2020 – 13.45 – In a report on 12 April 2020, the World Bank Warned South Asia “Amid the mounting human toll and global economic fallout triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, South Asian governments must take quick and firm action to curb the health emergency, protect their people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and set the stage now for faster economic recovery.”
South Asia is one of the most populous regions on the earth.
India, with a population of 1.3 Billion, Bangladesh 250 Million, Pakistan 220 Million, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, etc., and the combined population may constitute one-fourth of the world population.
Generally speaking, the economy of South Asia was never in good condition, but during the last couple of years, the situation is adverse.
India, with the highest number of poverty, hit by domestic violence and political turmoil, insurgencies, and factionalism, has already impacted negatively.
Pakistan, Foreign debt, Political instability, and wrong policies have deteriorated the situation in Pakistan.
COVID-19 has caused 3000 plus human lives and substantial economic loss to China, but fortunately, China has already over-came the Pandemic, and the life is restored to a regular routine. Wuhan, the epic Center of contagious virus, has opened already
Europe was the second station for COVID-19, and caused heavy losses of human life and big economic dent.
But the good news is that Europe has crossed the peak and the situation is moving toward normalization.
It might take some time, but life will be restored to its regular routine. While the US has become the biggest victim of COVID-19, with the highest number of confirmed cases, 560,433 and highest death toll reached 22,115. The worrisome thing is that it has not reached a peak yet.
Still the infection is growing on daily basis.
I am afraid, if the next target of COVID-19 is South Asia, it can be lethal and decisive. Due to the high density of population, the death toll can go beyond one’s imaginations. Fragile economy may not be able to absorb the economic impact caused by COVID-19. It is very much possible that the number of deaths due to hunger and starvation might cross the number of death due to pandemic.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, on 12 April 2020 (Sunday), appealed to the world leaders, leading financial institutions and the United Nations Secretary General for launching of ‘global initiative on debt relief’ to provide much needed relief to the developing countries, currently faced with worsening financial meltdown due to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic.
In a brief televised appeal to the international community, the prime minister juxtaposed the financial health of the developing countries, especially Pakistan, where the government had been striving simultaneously to avoid the spread of the deadly COVID-19 through clamping of lockdowns and saving the people from death due to hunger. The proposed global initiative aimed to lay ground for urgent debt relief to the developing countries, at their request, and without rigorous conditionality.
The action was built on the prime minister’s belief that enhanced fiscal capacity was fundamental to recovery from the ongoing pandemic crises.
In lines with the Secretary-General UN’s call for action, Prime minister Khan also urged the world leaders to step up measures to help developing countries to overcome disastrous impacts of COVID-19.
He also invited the UN Secretary-General to work with him in advancing the objectives of a coordinated response.
In the coming days, he would be approaching Heads of State/Government from a wide range of countries, notably from Paris Club, Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), heads of International Organizations, and others concerned to join him in this endeavor.
The world is passing through a very critical era; the disaster is so vast that no one single country can face it alone.
Collective measures are required.
The international community may extend support to needy countries to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.
[Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, NonResident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of
Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail: [email protected])]