Survey Finds Vast Majority in Pakistan Satisfied With Imran Khan's Handling of Coronavirus Crisis

An overwhelming 81% majority of Pakistanis are satisfied with Federal Government performance in responding to coronavirus pandemic, way up from 61% who expressed satisfaction in March, according to a recent Gallup Pakistan survey. These numbers reflect Pakistan's much flatter disease curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has also launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners. Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.

Bilal Gilani of Gallup Pakistan tweeted his reaction to the poll result in the following words: "These are very unusual numbers ! But not without parallels from around the world. Crisis brings good in govt and ppls expectations set changes!"

The unprecedented crisis has indeed brought out the best in Prime Minister Imran Khan's government. After some initial criticism about the slow response to the pandemic back in March, the government in Islamabad has acted quickly to deal with it. Here are some of the key actions by Prime Minister Imran Khan in March and April:

1. Nation-wide lockdown ordered to slow the spread of the disease in Pakistan. The lockdown was started by the Sindh government where the cases began to spike after the return of hundreds of Pakistani Shia pilgrims from Iran, a known COVID hotspot.  The lockdown has resulted in flattening the curve of the disease and reduced load on the developing nation's weak healthcare system.

Gallup Pakistan Coronavirus Survey
2. Prime Minister Imran Khan launched an $8 billion economic stimulus package, including funds for low-income families to be disbursed through $75 grants.
Comparison of COVID19 Cases in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

3. All international flights into and out of the country were stopped and all passengers  who arrived before the ban went into effect were checked and those with symptoms quarantined.  This action stranded thousands of foreigners in Pakistan and several thousand Pakistanis overseas. Some flights have since been allowed to help those stranded.

4. All passenger train service was halted in Pakistan. Pakistan Railways operates 142 trains daily on its 1,885-km-long tracks to ferry some 700 million passengers every year. Coronavirus fears had already reduced ridership.

COVID19 Deaths in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

5. The launch of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program at the end of March to hand out Rs. 12,000 each to 12 million families (an estimated 67 million people) whose livelihood has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic or its aftermath. This came after Prime Minister Imran Khan told reporters that  “we don’t want to try and save people from corona but they end up dying due to hunger and poverty".

6. Prime Minister Imran Khan granted exemption from lockdown to a few select activities, the area of forestry among them. These exemptions are subject to safe practices described in Stabdard Operating Procedures (SOPs) described by the government. Many workers idled by the coronavirus lockdown have been hired to plant millions trees as part of the Prime Minister's "10 Billion Tree Tsunami" program to deal with climate change. This is being described as "Green Stimulus".

7. Ramping up of tests and availability of  personal protection equipment (PPE), including masks and protective suits for the healthcare workers. Critics in Pakistan argue that more needs to be done to dramatically increase testing and reduce PPE shortages. This criticism is no different from that seen in other countries, including highly developed nations the United States and the United Kingdom.

Clearly, the results show that Pakistan's actions have slowed down the spread of disease caused by coronavirus in the country. The effect can be seen in Pakistan's much flatter curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners.  Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.  It is these results that have produced overwhelming approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Let's hope the government in Pakistan will handle the aftermath of the crisis even better.

Here's a World Economic Forum video of Pakistan's tree-planting campaign during the pandemic:

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Riaz Haq said…
#UK #Coronavirus #mortality data shows Black people 4 times, #Indian men 1.4 times, #Bangladeshi and #Pakistani males 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males. #SouthAsia #Caribbean

Black people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, according to stark official figures exposing a dramatic divergence in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in England and Wales.

The Office of National Statistics found that the difference in the virus’s impact was caused not only by pre-existing differences in communities’ wealth, health, education and living arrangements.

It discovered that after taking into account age, measures of self-reported health and disability and other socio-demographic characteristics, black people were still almost twice as likely as white people to die a Covid-19-related death.

Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males, after other pre-existing factors had been accounted for, and females from those ethnic groups were 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts.

The risk of Covid-19 death for people from Chinese and mixed ethnic groups was found to be similar to that for white people.

“These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in Covid-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,” the ONS said.

Guardian research last month confirmed suspicions that minority groups faced the greatest risk from the coronavirus and showed that areas with high ethnic minority populations in England and Wales tended to have higher mortality rates in the pandemic.

Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, described the findings as alarming. “We cannot ignore how important racial discrimination and racial inequalities, for example, in housing, are, even among poorer socio-economic groups,” she said. “These factors are important but are not taken into account in most statistical modelling of Covid-19 risk factors.”

While only 2% of white British households experienced overcrowding from 2014 to 2017, 30% of Bangladeshi households, 16% of Pakistani households and 12% of black households experienced this, according to a study of the English Housing Survey.

These groups are more likely to work in frontline roles in the NHS in England: nearly 21% of staff are from ethnic minorities, compared with about 14% of the population of England and Wales. Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations have been shown to face higher levels of unemployment and child poverty than white groups.

Helen Barnard, the acting director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the findings were “a stark reminder that although we are all weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same boat”.

May 7, 2020 at 10:47 AM
Riaz Haq said…
$900 million in #COVID19 cash payments to protect #Pakistan's poor. Vouchers generated up to $1.50 of indirect market benefits for each $1; and unconditional cash transfer program generated over $2 of indirect market benefits for each $1. #Ehsaas via @wef

A cash payment programme will provide financial support to over 80 million people in Pakistan during the coronavirus crisis.
Unconditional cash transfers have been found to be effective and efficient ways to provide humanitarian assistance.
Initial reports indicate that the cash has provided some security to these vulnerable families.
With a population of over 210 million, Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world. With nearly one third of the population subsisting from daily and piece-rate wages, the COVID-19 response has necessitated an urgent and immediate strategy to protect those living in extreme poverty.

For this reason, at the same time as our government launched its efforts to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it also allocated $900 million to deliver emergency cash to the extremely poor. This programme is administered through Ehsaas, the federal government’s new poverty alleviation programme, in partnership with all the federating units of Pakistan – provinces and territories.

The programme delivers one-time financial assistance to the 12 million families, which given the household size in Pakistan, represents over 80 million people in the country. Each eligible family receives approximately $75, which is enough to provide subsistence nutrition for four months. Within two weeks of launch, the programme has already reached 7 million of the nation’s poorest people, representing the largest and most extensive social protection intervention in the history of the country.

The system is simple to access and employs a “rule-based” analytic system to determine eligibility. Those individuals and families wishing to benefit from an emergency cash grant were asked to send an SMS with their identity card number to a special call line. This ID number – linked to the National Socioeconomic Database, the National Database Registration Authority, and also used for travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership, government employment status, amongst other things – is used to ascertain poverty and wealth status. Those meeting pre-determined eligibility criteria receive a confirmatory SMS. Payments are conducted through two commercial banks that competed through a tender process in 2019 to service Ehsaas’ biometrically-enabled cash transfer programmes. Both banks have branchless banking retail agents in small shops. The ATM machines used also have a biometric verification system. In the majority of the cases to date, cash has been delivered to the women in the family.

Ehsaas Emergency Cash disbursement presented unprecedented challenges, in terms of its scale, the needed speed of deployment, and the milieu in which disbursement was to happen. The government was in lockdown, markets where retailers operated were closed, and bank staff were meant to work from home.

With lockdowns in effect and physical distancing measures mandatory, there were concerns about the spread of COVID-19, given the fact that people would have to queue for disbursement and use biometric identification (fingerprints on machines). Other concerns included the availability of liquidity, connectivity (as thumb impressions are verified in real-time by banks), cybersecurity, limitations of data-driven messaging (such as authorizing payment to someone who is deceased, if records are not updated), and the potential for overloading helpline numbers.

For the beneficiary there were concerns that they might be victims of crime leaving the point of service with cash. There were also concerns regarding low levels of financial and digital literacy, and that people might need transportation in some cities to reach a payment site, while intercity transport is shut down.

Riaz Haq said…
#COVID19 has hurt India the most among the world’s top 10 economies. #Indian #manufacturing/services sectors saw the sharpest decline among top 10 #economies #India's #PMI for #services was 5.4 last month. Purchasing index below 50 means contraction. #Modi

In April 2020, India’s manufacturing and services sectors recorded the sharpest contraction among the world’s top 10 economies.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for services, a popular reading released by London-based IHS Markit, stood at 5.4 last month, down from 49.3 in March. A PMI reading below 50 means contraction.

The steep drop in services activity, which accounts for 52% of India’s GDP, is particularly worrying.

“Historical comparisons with GDP data suggest that India’s economy contracted at an annual rate of 15% in April. It is clear that the economic damage of the Covid-19 pandemic has so far been deep and far-reaching in India,” said Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit.

India is under a stringent lockdown to tackle the outbreak. Almost all services, with few exceptions like banking and post, have been curtailed.

The composite PMI Index, which combines services and manufacturing activities, dropped to a record low of 7.2 in April, compared with 50.6 in March.

The survey found record contractions in output, new orders, and a drop in employment in the manufacturing sector. Also, “there was evidence of unprecedented supply-side disruption, with input delivery times lengthening to the greatest extent since data collection began in March 2005,” according to Hayes.
Riaz Haq said…
What is the best way for #Pakistan to reopen its #economy after #coronavirus #lockdown? Which sectors are low-risk? Outdoor activities in #Agriculture & #Construction sectors? #Retail with curbside pickup? Des Pardes with Faraz Dervesh | via @YouTube
Riaz Haq said…
With hunters in #COVID19 #lockdown, there's a boon for migratory birds in #Pakistan. Millions of migratory birds from Siberia coming to #Pakistan and enjoying warm waters. #migratorybirds #coronavirus #wildlife

The abrupt silence caused by restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus may have hit economies hard, leaving people jobless, but it has come as a boon for migratory birds, especially in Pakistan.

With hunters and those dealing engaging in the sale of exotic birds have been forced to stay at home, migratory birds are making hay in Pakistan’s warm waters. To avoid a stinging winter of Siberia, every year millions of birds travel large distances to stay in warm Indian waters.

But on their way back from March-April, while overflying and taking rest in Pakistan they become easy targets of hunters and bird traders.

"Thousands of migratory birds are not only hunted but also caged for sale during this period every year. The ongoing lockdown has helped them return to their homeland safely," said Muhammad Moazzam Khan, the technical adviser of the Pakistan-chapter of World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Pakistan has been under lockdown since March and will continue until May 9 as the country has reported 22,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 526 deaths so far, according to data compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

"Returning to home was equally risky for the migratory birds. Thousands of them would fall prey to hunters, and poachers during migration, during their repatriation," Khan told Anadolu Agency.

The country’s southern Sindh province, which hosts a majority of migratory birds has reported a significant decrease in hunting compared to the last year.

"The ongoing shutdown has provided relief to the overall wildlife. It has also saved thousands of migratory birds, including endangered species, which otherwise are hunted during the process of back-migration," Javed Mahar the chief conservator of wildlife department told Anadolu Agency.

Every year over one million birds migrate from Siberia covering a grueling distance of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) in search of moderate waters. Although their ultimate destination is in India, they make stopovers at various lakes and water reservoirs in Pakistan, mainly in Sindh province.

A hunting ground for Arab sheikhs

These birds include houbara bustards, cranes, teals, pintails, mallards, geese, spoonbills, waders, and pelicans.

The sprawling deserts of Thar and Cholistan are the favorite hunting grounds for the Arab hunters. Some argue the hunting safaris of wealthy Arab sheikhs create jobs and help improve the local infrastructure.

Climate change and the uncontrolled hunting of several rare species have forced the migratory birds -- also known as guest birds -- to look for other peaceful sites in South Asia in recent years, say environmentalists.

The unchecked exercise has endangered several rare species, mainly the houbara bustard, which is constantly being hunted by Arab royals despite opposition from both environmentalists and locals.

The prolonged lockdown has also halted the illegal wildlife trade in the country, at least for now.

"Almost all the legal and illegal pet markets across the country are closed following the suspension of road, and air links, which has contained the wildlife trafficking," Shabina Faraz, a Karachi-based expert, who frequently writes on environment and wildlife, said while speaking to Anadolu Agency.

Even the business of amateur poachers, who would cage birds like house sparrow and parrots, for the roadside sale, has dried up because of restrictions on public movement.

Many in Pakistan buy and set free these caged birds considering it an act of benevolence or to cast away evil.

Fresh lease of life to wildlife

Another species trafficked from Pakistan include freshwater and marine turtles, tortoises, raptors particularly falcons, pangolins, snakes, and other reptiles.

Riaz Haq said…
The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor
Zachary Barnett-Howell∗ Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak†

Social distancing is the primary policy prescription for combating the COVID-19 pandemic,
and has been widely adopted in Europe and North America. We estimate the value of disease
avoidance using an epidemiological model that projects the spread of COVID-19 across rich and
poor countries. Social distancing measures that “flatten the curve" of the disease to bring demand within the capacity of healthcare systems are predicted to save many lives in high-income
countries, such that practically any economic cost is worth bearing. These social distancing
policies are estimated to be less effective in poor countries with younger populations less susceptible to COVID-19, and more limited healthcare systems, which were overwhelmed before
the pandemic. Moreover, social distancing lowers disease risk by limiting people’s economic
opportunities. Poorer people are less willing to make those economic sacrifices. They place
relatively greater value on their livelihood concerns compared to contracting COVID-19. Not
only are the epidemiological and economic benefits of social distancing much smaller in poorer
countries, such policies may exact a heavy toll on the poorest and most vulnerable. Workers in
the informal sector lack the resources and social protections to isolate themselves and sacrifice
economic opportunities until the virus passes. By limiting their ability to earn a living, social
distancing can lead to an increase in hunger, deprivation, and related mortality and morbidity.
Rather than a blanket adoption of social distancing measures, we advocate for the exploration of
alternative harm-reduction strategies, including universal mask adoption and increased hygiene


The cost of leaving COVID-19 uncontrolled in the United States is
unambiguously large. This is due to higher predicted mortality rates in the United States relative to
other countries and the higher base VSL. In comparison to U.S. losses, the dollar costs of uncontrolled
COVID-19 in large countries such as Pakistan or Nigeria look minuscule. The more relevant question
for any country-specific policy is the total cost of COVID-19 mortality under each scenario relative
to that country’s own GDP.


Although the value of intervention is more comparable by this metric, without mitigation efforts
COVID-19 still imposes a large welfare cost—above 130% of GDP in rich countries like the United
States and Japan. In contrast, in the unmitigated scenario the losses in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan,
Nigeria, Nepal are about 50-60% of their own annual GDP. T
Riaz Haq said…
Lives not worth saving

By Khurram Husain

The study in question is called The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor Countries, and it is authored by Zachary Barnett-Howell and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, both highly credentialled and published economists at Yale. It begins by asking whether “shuttering the economy for weeks or months and mass unemployment are reasonable costs to pay?” in return for “flattening the curve” of Covid-19 cases. In order to answer their own question, the authors have to first render both the costs and benefits of a lockdown into a comparable unit. The economic costs are measured in dollars, whereas the health benefits of a lockdown are measured in lives saved. So the question arises: how to compare these two quantities — lives and money — with each other?


To do so, the authors deploy a widely used model in the economics literature called the Value of Statistical Life model. What VSL does, quite literally, is tell us the dollar value of human life in different contexts. It was used originally in more limited contexts to help policymakers with complex judgements in cases where a particular policy imposed an economic cost in return for a vague health benefit. One example might be setting air quality standards.

But with the passage of time, the VSL model began to be used in contexts far more complicated and more pressing than any in the past. One example is climate change, where a number of economists from prestigious universities have used the model to argue that the benefits from the mitigation efforts to curb carbon emissions that scientists are calling for are not worth the economic costs that they will impose. Simply put, they argued that the likelihood of climate change turning out to be a catastrophic event was small, and making massive investments in foregone output today to avert an event that was probabilistically miniscule was not worth the cost.

The VSL at stake did not justify the massive investments required to curb greenhouse gas emissions to a two per cent increase by century end. This debate was sparked in 2006 when the Stern Review, put out by the eminent UK economist and public servant Nicholas Stern, argued that such an investment was now a matter of existential importance for mankind to make. Those who opposed him either took issue with his projections of the economic losses that climate change would impose, or invoked the VSL model to argue that the foregone economic output was larger than what was purportedly being saved.

It took 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to cut through the Gordian technicalities into which the ensuing conversation fell. “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she exclaimed in her famous address to the UN in September 2019. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Today, the economists are back, armed with their VSL model, telling us that the dollar value of the lives saved as a result of the lockdown are worth less than the foregone output in developing countries, and they specifically mention Pakistan as one example.

For the US, for example, they say 1.76 million lives will be saved through aggressive interventions, and put the total value of these lives at $7.9 trillion. This easily justifies a $2tr stimulus along with whatever economic losses result from a closure of the economy.

Riaz Haq said…
Teleschool goes on air today to compensate for academic loss

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday inaugurated a national broadcast education channel to mitigate the loss faced by the students due to the closure of educational institutions till May 31 in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

Teleschool — the dedicated TV channel — will be aired through a beam provided by Pakistan Television (PTV) from Tuesday (today) across the country from 8am to 6pm for online education from class one to 12.

Speaking at its launching ceremony, the prime minister said that teleschool would help students learn during the closure of schools. This initiative would also help the government reach the remote areas, which didn’t have access to education facilities and infrastructure, Mr Khan said.

He said as Pakistan had a large number of out-of-school children (OOSC), this initiative could promote primary education and focus on the OOSC.

He said no one could predict when Covid-19 would be eliminated, as it could take two, three or six months. He said this project was highly productive in the given circumstances.

The PM was of the opinion that this project should continue even after the pandemic was over and reopening of schools. He said it would help promote education in remote areas while the concept could also be used for telemedicine.

He said that adult literacy could also be promoted through this project. He appreciated all those officials who played their role to launch this project.

Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood at the launch told the premier that education ministry was also mulling to develop an app to benefit over 20 million out-of-school children and promote adult literacy.

About country’s literacy rate, the minister said: “We have just 60 per cent literacy rate”. He said the education ministry was trying to link education with technology so that adults who wanted to learn had access to education through mobile phones.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was also present at the launch of teleschool.

Officials of the education ministry told Dawn that the dedicated TV channel, teleschool, would be available on satellite, terrestrial and cable networks so that it would be accessible to most parts of the country, including hard-to-reach remote areas, ensuring equity in learning. An officer of the education ministry said that the ministry initially inked an agreement with PTV for three months, but if needed it could be extended as the PM also expressed his desire for the project’s continuation.

Joint Secretary (Education) Syed Umair Javed, who had supervised the content development process, told Dawn that online content was developed in accordance with country’s curriculum and it was made attractive for students.

“The credit of making this project possible in less than a month goes to unsung heroes: content developers, teachers and staff of Federal Directorate of Education, editors, techs and producers of Allama Iqbal Open University and PTV,” he said.
Riaz Haq said…
The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor
Zachary Barnett-Howell∗ Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak†

The prediction of significantly lower incidence of COVID-19 deaths in poor countries is primarily
based on the younger average age of their population. The model accounts for the fact that poor
countries have fewer hospital beds and lower ICU capacity, and will be entirely unable to meet
peak demand. The lower marginal benefits of implementing suppression policies in poor countries
arises from the fact that by the time suppression is triggered, the model predicts that COVID-19
will have already spread significantly, overwhelming countries with low healthcare capacity. Older
people in low-income countries are also more likely to become infected by COVID-19 as they have
higher contact with other individuals inside and outside the household, but the large demographic
differences between rich and poor countries outweighs this factor.
The model, however, does not presently account for the higher burden of infectious diseases and
chronic illness in low-income countries, particularly in children, basing its estimate of healthcare
demand and overall mortality on data from China. This could lead to an under-estimate of mortality
in low-income countries (Walker et al., 2020). On the other hand, the model presumes equally
effective implementation of mitigation or suppression policies in poor and rich countries. Recent
experience in India with the large and slow exodus of migrant workers from cities following lockdown suggests that suppression policies imperfectly implemented in low-capacity settings may have
counter-productive effects on containing COVID-19.

1.3 Differences in the Economic Value of Interventions in Rich and Poor Countries
The COVID-19 mitigation strategies considered in our model are all based on reducing contact
rates. However, lower contact comes at the cost of reduced economic activity and lower earnings.
We measure the economic value of avoided mortality from mitigation policies in each country using
Viscusi and Masterman (2017)’s country-specific value of statistical life (VSL) estimates. The VSL
is based on how people trade off the risk of harm and economic reward. Individuals face mortality
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan's #Pharmaceutical Firm Ferozsons partners with #Gilead Sciences to manufacture for domestic use and export #Remdesivir to treat #COVIDー19 in . #coronavirus via @Profitpk

The Ferozsons Laboratories Limited has announced that its subsidiary Biosciences Limited (BFBL) is in negotiations to enter into a non-exclusive license agreement with Gilead Sciences, Inc for the manufacture and sale of remdesivir to supply Pakistan and 126 other countries under Gilead’s Global Patient Solutions Programme serving the developing world, informed the company in a statement to the Pakistan Stock Exchange on Monday.

There is no obligation at this time for any party to execute any transaction, the statement added.

“Remdesivir has been granted emergency use authorisation (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 disease. The optimal duration of treatment is still being studied in ongoing clinical trials. Under the EUA, both 5-day and 10-day treatment durations are suggested, based on the severity of disease.

If an agreement is executed by Gilead and BFBL, once production starts, the company believes it will have sufficient quantities over time to serve the needs of the patients in Pakistan. However, at the moment, the management is uncertain as to the timelines for first launch as an agreement remains to be executed, and thereafter local regulatory approvals and sourcing of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for manufacturing remdesivir may take some time.

The BFBL management is actively taking up the matter with the relevant stakeholders so that remdesivir is made available to patients in Pakistan on an urgent basis”, the statement added.
Riaz Haq said…
#Lockdown-Free #Sweden Had It Right, Says World Health Organization. Dr. Giesecke speaks out against draconic measures, which so far are not evidence-based. #WHO #ProtectTheVulnerable #HerdImmunity #COVID19 #coronavirus from @aier

The world has watched in amazement as Sweden eschewed draconian lockdowns and instead trusted its citizens to manage this virus for themselves. Now the head of the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization, epidemiologist Michael J. Ryan, M.D., has praised the approach: Sweden “relied on the relationship with the citizens, and on the citizens’ ability and willingness to implement physical distancing and self-regulation… I believe that if we are to reach a new normal situation, Sweden can in many ways represent a model for the future.”


Dr. Giesecke speaks out against draconic measures, which so far are not evidence-based, elaborating on how the Swedes have done things differently and how they could have done even better.

Q: There’s been a lot of confused thinking and a lot of confusion about what the correct response to a threat such as COVID-19 and should be – and I just wanted to begin by getting your, kind of summary, thoughts of – of you know, how Sweden is differing from other countries and why you think that is.

A: The main reason is that we, or the Swedish government, decided early in January that the measures we should take against the pandemic should be evidence-based. And when you start looking around for the measures that are being taken now by different countries you find that very few of them have the shred of evidence base. But one we know, that’s known for a hundred and fifty years or more, and that is washing your hands is good for you and good for others when you’re in an epidemic. But the rest – like border closures, school closures, social distancing – there’s almost no science behind most of these.

Q: So what is the current policy in Sweden? Social distancing is part of the policy, isn’t it? What is the regime that Sweden has gone with?

A: The main difference to other countries is that there is no – you’re not locked up in your home. If you go out to buy food, or groceries, or drugs – I mean medicines – there’s no police to stop you in the street and ask you what you’re doing here. That’s one thing. People are asked to stay inside, but there is no reinforcement or enforcement of that. People do it anyway. So that’s one. We have the rule that the crowd cannot be bigger than 50 people.

Q: So I can still have an event for 49 people? (Although I won’t.)

A: Yes, you could. The schools – the upper schools are closed; secondary education and universities closed; schools up to age 15, 16 schools are open. What more do we have? Don’t – the nursing homes, or houses for old people, are closed to visitors.

Q: So it sounds like it’s a moderate social distancing regime then, at the moment?

A: Yes, it is. Sorry it’s very similar to the one that the UK had before there was a famous paper in – by – the Imperial College, by the modelers who made models for infectious diseases that came out on the day after you made a u-turn in England.

Q: Yes, tell us the original strategy in the UK and became known as a kind of herd immunity strategy, that’s what it was called. Before we get on to talk about the Imperial model – which I would like to talk about – is it correct to call it herd immunity and, and is that the Swedish strategy?

A: It’s not a strategy, but it’s a by-product of the strategy. But the strategy is to protect the old and the frail; try to minimize their risk of becoming infected, and taking care of them if they get infected. If you do that – the way we’re doing it – you would probably get herd immunity and then – but that’s a byproduct order, it’s not the main reason to do it.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan: #COVID19 drug production to start "within weeks," says CEO of Ferozsons Ltd, which will produce the drug. Pakistan will be among the first 3 countries in the world to produce #remdesevir for domestic use & export to 127 nations. #pharmaceutical

Pakistan will soon start production of the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has shown promise in treating the novel coronavirus, the country's top health official and a pharmaceutical company's chief executive announced on Friday.

Production should start "within weeks," said Osman Khalid Waheed, the chief executive of Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd, which will produce the drug. He spoke at a news conference alongside Pakistan's de facto health minister, Zafar Mirza.

"Pakistan will be among the first three countries in the world where it will not only be produced but will also be exported to the whole world," Mirza said. It will be exported to 127 countries, he said.

Remdesivir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences, has grabbed attention as one of the most promising treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 300,000 people.

To expand its access, Gilead said it signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.

"It is a commitment by us and Gilead that this medicine could be produced at minimum cost and make it most accessible," Waheed said.

Pakistan has recorded 37,218 COVID-19 cases and 803 deaths. Lockdowns to curb the disease's spread are forecast to will cause the country's economy to shrink 1% to 1.5% in 2020.

Despite a rising rate of infection, Pakistan began lifting those lockdowns last week, primarily to avert an economic meltdown.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan central bank cuts interest rates to 8% as #coronavirus fallout hits #economy."Easier monetary policy ... can provide liquidity support to households and businesses to help them through the ensuing temporary phase of economic disruption"| NASDAQ

Pakistan's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate on Friday by 100 basis points to 8%, the fourth time it has cut rates since the coronavirus pandemic hit two months ago.

"Easier monetary policy ... can provide liquidity support to households and businesses to help them through the ensuing temporary phase of economic disruption," the State Bank said, adding the likelihood of surging inflation expected earlier in the year had also reduced.

The bank has cut rates by a total of 525 basis points since the beginning of the health crisis two months ago and has announced a package of measures to support poorer workers hit by the pandemic as well as offering risk sharing with private banks on concessional lending to boost liquidity.

Before the crisis hit, the bank had held rates at an elevated level of 13.25% for months as it sought to reign in inflation which rose to more than 14% in January. Falling oil prices now make inflation less of a concern.

"As a result, inflation could fall closer to the lower end of the previously announced ranges of 11-12 percent this fiscal year and 7-9 percent next fiscal year."

The decision comes around a fortnight before Pakistan announces its annual budget, aimed at finding ways to generate revenue and cut expenditures.

Due to a shortfall in revenue, re-prioritising of expenditure and increase in public spending, the post-pandemic fiscal deficit could reach as high as 9.4%, against an earlier projection of 7.4%, according to finance ministry documents seen by Reuters.

Pakistan began a phased lifting of its countrywide lockdown last week despite a rising rate of cases – a move pushed primarily by fears of an economic meltdown. The country has reported more than 38,000 COVID-19 cases and 821 deaths.

"Easing lockdowns...should help provide support to economic activity. Nevertheless, as elsewhere, the situation remains highly uncertain," the State Bank said. "A possible rise in infections could prompt fresh lockdowns, and the recovery could prove more sluggish than is currently being anticipated."

(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan and Charlotte Greenfield Editing by Andrew Heavens and Peter Graff)
Riaz Haq said…
Cash-strapped #India's stimulus unlikely to soften #coronavirus blow. Actual spending announced by #Modi is only about a tenth of the package. It is not enough of a boost to prevent a likely 5% contraction in #GDP. Business leaders are unimpressed by it

India's $266 billion economic rescue package rests mostly on boosting company credit but contains scant new public spending, tax breaks or cash support to revive demand and prevent firms from collapsing, business leaders and economists say.

Businesses from airlines to small stores are reeling from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nearly two-month lockdown of India's 1.3 billion people aimed at limiting the spread of the new coronavirus. Many firms say they won't survive unless they are b ..
Riaz Haq said…
#UN #SDGs: #Pakistan has achieved ‘Climate Action’ goal 10 years ahead of the deadline, a recognition of Pakistan’s commitment to fighting #climatechange, but also an endorsement of the success of #ImranKhan govt's initiatives. #ClimateAction #PTI |

According to the Sustainable Development Report 2020, an annual global assessment of countries’ progress towards achieving the United Nations led Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Pakistan has achieved the ‘Climate Action’ SDG ten years ahead of the deadline. This is not only a recognition of Pakistan’s renewed commitment to fighting climate change, but also an endorsement of the success of numerous environmental protection initiatives launched by the government.

Traditionally, climate change has not been a key agenda item in Pakistan’s public discourse which over time has resulted in a gross underestimation of the gravity of the situation. Therefore, it is important to begin by recognising that climate change is a very real threat to Pakistan’s long-term prosperity and survival. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan was the 5th most affected country by the impact of climate change during the twenty-year period from 1999-2018. The Index used a weighted score, based on climate change mediated death toll and loss to the economy (in purchasing power parity terms), to calculate a Climate Risk Index (CRI) score which was then used to rank countries.

With rising Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and a dwindling forest cover, Pakistan’s annual mean temperature is estimated to rise by three to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Already, cities such as Turbat and Nawabshah are witnessing record high temperatures, confirming the worst fears of climate change scientists. The rising temperatures will over time result in rapid melting of the glaciers that feed Pakistan’s rivers, as well as in a projected 60 cm rise in the sea level by the year 2100. Coupled with a high variability in precipitation, these changes are expected to lead to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical storms, jeopardising Pakistan’s agriculture, economy, water and food security, as well as the health of the country’s inhabitants.

Despite the seriousness of the threat, Pakistan’s fight against climate change did not really take off until 2013. The origins of the new-found fervor can be traced back to the Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP), popularly known as Billion Tree Tsunami. Through BTAP, over a five-year period the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa restored 350,000 hectares of forestland employing a combination of natural regeneration and planned afforestation. As a result, the province’s forest cover increased by about five per cent and half a million green jobs were created. The initiative received global acclaim after a third-party audit by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) confirmed nearly 85% average survival of the plantations. It exceeded the province’s Bonn Challenge commitment and was hailed as a “true conservation success story” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Not only did the successful execution of BTAP make climate change a significant issue of public interest in Pakistan, it also served to put the country on the map in the global fight against climate change.

Since 2018, Pakistan’s fight against climate change has picked up further pace. There has been a discernible shift in the government’s priorities with the emergence of an overarching “Green Growth Agenda” that has informed several initiatives across the country. With an aim to replicate the success of BTAP on a national level, ...
Riaz Haq said…
Was Pride Their Downfall? #UK's Chief Medical Officer Before #COVID19 #pandemic humbled #Europe: “Being rich massively hardens a society against epidemics”


But that confidence would prove their undoing. Their pandemic plans were built on a litany of miscalculations and false assumptions. European leaders boasted of the superiority of their world-class health systems but had weakened them with a decade of cutbacks. When Covid-19 arrived, those systems were unable to test widely enough to see the peak coming — or to guarantee the safety of health care workers after it hit.

Accountability mechanisms proved toothless. Thousands of pages of national pandemic planning turned out to be little more than exercises in bureaucratic busy work. Officials in some countries barely consulted their plans; in other countries, leaders ignored warnings about how quickly a virus could spread.

European Union checks of each country’s readiness had become rituals of self-congratulation. Mathematical models used to predict pandemic spreads — and to shape government policy — fed a false sense of security.

National stockpiles of medical supplies were revealed to exist mostly on paper, consisting in large part of “just in time” contracts with manufacturers in China. European planners overlooked the risk that a pandemic, by its global nature, could disrupt those supply chains. National wealth was powerless against worldwide shortages.

Held in high esteem for its scientific expertise, Europe, especially Britain, has long educated many of the best medical students from Asia, Africa and Latin America. On a visit to South Korea after a 2015 outbreak of the coronavirus MERS, Dame Sally Davies, then England’s chief medical officer, was revered as an expert. Upon her return home, she assured colleagues that such an outbreak could not happen in Britain’s public health system.

Now South Korea, with a death toll below 300, is a paragon of success against the pandemic. Many epidemiologists there are dumbfounded at the mess made by their mentors.--------------

Prof. Chris Whitty, Britain’s chief medical adviser, stood before an auditorium in a London museum two years ago cataloging deadly epidemics.

From the Black Death of the 14th century to cholera in war-torn Yemen, it was a baleful history. But Professor Whitty, who had spent most of his career fighting infectious diseases in Africa, was reassuring. Britain, he said, had a special protection.

“Being rich,” he explained.

Wealth “massively hardens a society against epidemics,” he argued, and quality of life — food, housing, water and health care — was more effective than any medicine at stopping the diseases that ravaged the developing world.

Professor Whitty’s confidence was hardly unique. As recently as February, when European health ministers met in Brussels to discuss the novel coronavirus emerging in China, they commended their own health systems and promised to send aid to poor and developing countries.

“Responsibility is incumbent on us, not only for Italy and Europe, but also for the African continent,” said Roberto Speranza, Italy’s health minister.

“The European Union should be ready for support,” agreed Maggie De Block, Belgium’s then health minister.

Barely a month later, the continent was overwhelmed. Instead of serving primarily as a donor, providing aid to former colonies, Western Europe became an epicenter of the pandemic. Officials once boastful about their preparedness were frantically trying to secure protective gear and materials for tests, as death rates soared in Britain, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium.

This was not supposed to happen. The expertise and resources of Western Europe were expected to provide the antidote to viral outbreaks flowing out of poorer regions. Many European leaders felt so secure after the last pandemic — the 2009 swine flu — that they scaled back stockpiles of equipment and faulted medical experts for overreacting.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan PM #ImranKhan is the ninth most followed leader on Twitter, according to a study by Twiplomacy. The data shows a growth of 22% in the following of PM Khan on Twitter in recent weeks. #COVID19

The recent popularity study shows Prime Minister Imran Khan has become the ninth most followed world leader on microblogging site Twitter. A study by Twiplomacy revealed the date on Tuesday. The data shows a growth of 22% in the following of PM Khan on Twitter

A surge in the incumbent PM’s popularity
Hence, the expansion in the following of Imran Khan on Twitter marks a surge in his popularity. But does it also implies for the success of his policies in the fight against COVID-19?

Meanwhile, the study also shows Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is the second most followed foreign minister across the world. Shah Mehmood Qureshi registered a 23% growth in his followers on Twitter that has now reached up to 3.1 million.

Communication agency, Burson Cohn and Wolfe Worldwide conducted the study. The study analyzed the activity of world leaders during the pandemic coronavirus. It reviews the tweets from their accounts during the coronavirus, their followers, content, reaches, and other factors.

Popularity of world leaders as per Twitter stats

The study concluded US President Donald Trump the most followed world leader on Twitter. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ranked second in the list. Meanwhile, Pope Francis landed on the third spot.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was ranked seventh in the list with 17% growth in the following. Turkish President Erdogan now records 16.1 million followers on Twitter.
Riaz Haq said…
#COVID19 Lessons for #Pakistan #Climate Advisor: For every $ invested in nature, you get 9 dollars back.
Imbalances between humans & natural world have led to zoonotic #pandemics. Pakistan's billion tree project has helped the economy and the community.

Pakistan's climate minister and advisor Malik Amin Aslam says nature has taught us two key things during the coronavirus pandemic.

Firstly, if you treat it badly, it will strike back. And secondly, if you treat it well, there are many benefits.

The minister for climate change, who also advises Pakistan's prime minister, was speaking on the first day of the World Economic Forum's Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

"When you start investing in nature, nature always pays you back," he said, referring to Pakistan's billion tree planting project, which has reaped dividends by creating jobs, engaging the community and helping develop a new economy.

He said his country's experience proved that for every dollar you invest in nature, you get nine dollars back.

"We don't have to come out of this pandemic on the same pathway that got us in there. You've seen the different world during this pandemic when humans have retreated. What has happened? You've seen the blue skies, the clean air that we've all built," he said, describing this as a positive opportunity.

Hanging in the balance

On the other hand, treating nature badly could lead to more difficulties down the line, the minister warned.

"The stark warning that nature has given to all of the world is that there are boundaries and nature works within certain limits and certain balances. And if we tried to tilt that balance, nature will strike back," he said.

The minister pointed to the fact that we are living in the middle of a zoonotic pandemic because humans have invaded the territory of animals as evidence of nature striking back.

Zoonotic diseases are those that jump from animals to humans. Rats, bats, monkeys and apes are among those more likely to spread zoonotic germs. Other illnesses and diseases that have been spread this way include Ebola, HIV, SARS and MERS, and Zika.

The UNEP has warned that human activity including urbanization and industrialized agriculture has laid the foundations for pandemics by causing biodiversity loss and environmental damage.

The coronavirus is now present in more than 200 countries, with more than 31 million global cases and almost one million global death, according to figures compiled by the Johns Hopkins University.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan Plants 500 Million New #Trees in Drive Against Climate Change. The #PTI government's countrywide $760 million reforestation drive is on track to plant more than three billion trees by mid-2023 to mitigate the effects of #ClimateChange.

Pakistan says a countrywide reforestation drive is on track to plant more than three billion trees by mid-2023 to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The massive program, dubbed Ten Billion Tree Tsunami, went into effect last year and has already planted more than 500 million saplings across the country, Federal Minister for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam told VOA.

“We are hoping to get our first billion target done by June next year,” Aslam said. He added the overall target is to add 10 billion trees by planting and natural regeneration through a phased approach at a cost of about $760 million.

Aslam explained the campaign will increase “exponentially" in speed and scale in the coming days because the government has generated adequate nursery stock over the last two years.

“The biggest obstacle in this process is the generation of nurseries. When we started, we had a nursery stock of about 30 million all over Pakistan. Today, the nursery stock we have in Pakistan is 300 million,” Aslam said.

Pakistan’s total forest cover is estimated to be less than 3%, one of the lowest levels in the region and well below the 12% recommended by the United Nations.

The South Asian nation of about 220 million is listed in the top 10 countries most likely to be affected by global warming and has one of the highest deforestation rates in Asia.

Aslam noted the tree plantation program is also generating tens of thousands of new employment opportunities and is expected to create about 1.5 million jobs over the next three years when the government will have hit the target of nearly 3.3 billion trees.

“For every dollar you invest in nature, you get nine dollars back. So, you get jobs, you get local employment, you get (a) green economy going,” the minister told VOA.

“Even during the COVID era, we created 84,000 jobs for people who were out of jobs,” he added, referring to the coronavirus pandemic that hit Pakistan in February.

The outbreak prompted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to introduce nationwide lockdowns to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has infected at least 315,000 Pakistanis, and resulted in more than 6,500 deaths. New infections, however, have dramatically and steadily declined to several hundred a day since June, encouraging the government to lift all lockdowns.

Khan spearheaded a reforestation campaign, known as Billion Tree Tsunami, in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, which his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party has been governing since 2013.

The four-year program restored 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land, surpassing its 348,400 hectares commitment to the Bonn Challenge and winning Khan international praise for his climate change efforts.

The Bonn Challenge, established in 2011, calls for the restoration of 350 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2030.

Billion Tree Tsunami program

The Billion Tree Tsunami program generated about 500,000 green jobs for men and women in poverty-stricken remote areas of the scenic Pakistani province. It has established a network of private tree nurseries and boosted local incomes.

The World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan (WWF-P), which monitored and audited the tree-planting effort in KP, reported that the project has been an environmental, economic and social success, with one of the highest survival rates of trees in the world, ranging from 75% to more than 80%.

Officials at the International Union for Conservation of Nature-Pakistan (ICUN-P) hailed the initiative as “a true conservation success story.”

Khan launched the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami program after his party won the July 2018 national election and he became prime minister.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Decides Against New Coal-fired Power

By 2030, Khan said, 60% of all energy produced in Pakistan will be clean and obtained through renewable resources, while 30% of all vehicles will run on electricity.

Khan’s government, which took power more than two years ago, has also undertaken a countrywide reforestation campaign to plant more than 3 billion trees by mid-2023 to mitigate the effects of climate change. The massive program, dubbed the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami, went into effect last year, and officials say it has planted more than 500 million saplings across Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
A 10 Billion-Tree Plan Is Restoring #Pakistan’s Lost #Forests. Pakistan is planting #trees that need relatively little water like a fast-growing mahogany commonly known as the neem tree. The tree drive has created thousand of jobs . #climatechange

Pakistan’s arid climate and rocky deserts may seem an unlikely place to look for a green revolution, but the nation of more than 200 million people has begun one of the world’s largest reforestation programs.

The government is in the first phase of planting 3.25 billion trees at an estimated cost of around 105 billion rupees ($650 million), Malik Amin Aslam, minister for climate change said in an interview. Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to extend that to almost 10 billion by the time his term in office ends in 2023.

“We are trying to unleash a green economy,” Aslam said by phone.

The task is enormous. Pakistan is among the six countries that face the biggest impact from climate change, according to the United Nations, with risks of floods, melting glaciers and droughts. Its forest cover is now among the lowest in the world – about 5% of the land, compared with a global average of 31%, according to UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Unfortunately, we never cared about them,” said Khan at a tree-planting ceremony in July. “After independence from the British, we have lost forests instead of adding to them.”

Pakistan is planting trees that need relatively little water, like the azadirachta indica, a fast-growing mahogany commonly known as the neem tree. Neems typically don’t need to be watered after the first five years, while the other species that have been chosen only need extra water for the first few months, according to Tabish Hussain, a government-employed forester in Karachi.


In addition to restoring some eco-systems and absorbing planet-warming carbon emissions, the tree plantation drive has provided thousand of jobs in a country that struggles with unemployment. “I am hopeful that we can save our nation,” said Khan. “You go to Dubai, its all a desert, they don’t have trees. God has given us everything, we just need to take care of it.”
Riaz Haq said…
World Bank Supports Expansion of the Ehsass Social Protection Program in Pakistan to Increase Household Resilience to Economic Shocks

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved $600 million in financing from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Crisis-Resilient Social Protection Program (CRISP) that will support Pakistan to expand Ehsaas, the national poverty alleviation program, to protect vulnerable households and increase resilience to economic shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of families across Pakistan face economic hardship, particularly those working in the informal sector, who have no savings or are not covered by existing social safety net programs,” said Najy Benhassine, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “This investment supports Ehsaas in developing an adaptive social protection system that is more efficient and offers a new model for crisis-response and increasing household resilience to future shocks.”

CRISP will facilitate the gradual expansion of Ehsaas social protection programs to better reach informal workers through an innovative, hybrid approach that blends social assistance with promotion of increased savings that informal workers, particularly women, can depend on in the event of economic shocks. It will provide a platform through which the government can rapidly respond to support the most affected households during an economic crisis.

“In the event of a crisis, a more flexible and dynamic social protection system can significantly reduce the time needed to respond to peoples’ needs as well as supporting a faster recovery,” said Amjad Zafar Khan, Task Team Leader for the Crisis-Resilient Social Protection program.

CRISP will also improve the capacity of the social registry to maintain up-to-date accurate household data and exchange data among social programs, while providing greater beneficiary choice in the biometric payment systems. It will also help Pakistan address longer-term impacts on human capital caused by the pandemic, resulting from foregone health and medical services and a substantial loss of education due to prolonged absence from schools.

To help prevent losses in human capital accumulation, which is critical to long-term resilience, CRISP leverages two existing Ehsaas programs that provide conditional cash transfers (CCT) to eligible households. These include Waseela-e-Taleem, a CCT program linked to primary school attendance and Nashonuma, a nutrition-focused CCT program aimed at improving child and maternal health, which will benefit more than three million families across the country.

The World Bank in Pakistan

Pakistan has been a member of the World Bank since 1950. Since then, the World Bank has provided $40 billion in assistance. The World Bank’s program in Pakistan is governed by the Country Partnership Strategy for FY2015-2020 with four priority areas of engagement: energy, private sector development, inclusion, and service delivery. The current portfolio has 57 projects and a total commitment of $13 billion.
Riaz Haq said…
#WorldBank recognizes #Pakistan's #EhsaasEmergencyCash among world's largest. Pakistan is among top 5 lower middle income nations by level of #social protection spending. #Mongolia (8% of #GDP), #Zimbabwe (5%), #Bolivia (3%), #Pakistan (1.2%), Others <1%

As per World Bank’s latest report titled Social Protection and Jobs Responses to COVID-19: A Real-Time Review of Country Measures, India’s Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) program with over 206 million individuals covered, is the largest Covid-related cash transfer scheme worldwide. Such program is followed by three cash transfer interventions all reaching over a hundred million people, namely the US first stimulus check (160 million), Japan’s one-off universal program reaching about (116.5), and Pakistan’s Ehsaas (100.9).

The report stated that Pakistan was also among the top 5 lower-middle-income countries by level of social protection spending. The highest level of spending in lower-middle-income countries is observed in Mongolia (8% of GDP), Zimbabwe (5%), Bolivia (3%), Pakistan (1.2%), and with a range of others spending 1% of GDP.

As per the report, Pakistan’s provincial governments also implemented supportive fiscal measures from the onset of the shock, including cash grants to low-income households, tax relief, and additional health spending (including a salary increase for healthcare workers).

The government of Punjab implemented a PKR 10 billion cash grants program. The government of Sindh's measures included a cash grant.

The Government of Pakistan allocated Rs. 203 Billion (USD 1.23bn) to deliver one-time emergency cash assistance to 15 million families at risk of extreme poverty. This represents nearly 109 million people. Each family receives Rs. 12,000 (USD 75) for immediate subsistence.

The Economic Coordination Committee approved Rs. 75 billion among 6.2 million daily-wage earners with cash assistance for the daily wagers working in the formal industrial sector and who had been laid off because of the COVID-19 outbreak. It was part of the PM’s Relief Package of Rs 200 billion.

As part of the supportive fiscal measures, the Government of Pakistan implemented additional health spending. The government of Sindh's measures included a cash grant and ration distribution program of PKR 1.5 billion for low-income households.

The report stated that a relief package worth PKR 1.2 trillion was announced by the federal government on March 24, which has been almost fully implemented. The economic package earmarked resources for accelerated procurement of wheat (PKR 280 billion), financial support to utility stores (PKR 50 billion), a reduction in regulated fuel prices (with a benefit for end-consumers estimated at PKR 70 billion), support for health and food supplies (PKR 15 billion), electricity bill payments relief (PKR 110 billion.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet in April last year approved the deferment of monthly and quarterly fuel adjustments in the electricity bills for power consumers for the next three months (till June 2020) under the government relief package. 06 April 2020 Power Division has reportedly prepared power tariff freezing for three months aimed at minimizing the financial burden on the Coronavirus-hit consumers, estimated financial impact of which will be Rs 381 billion, stated the report.
Riaz Haq said…
World Bank: Poverty incidence is estimated to have increased in FY20 from 4.4 to 5.4 percent, using the international poverty line of $1.90 PPP 2011 per day, with more than two million people falling below this poverty line.

"....the containment measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a severe contraction in economic activity during the final quarter of FY20. As a result, GDP growth is estimated to have contracted by 1.5 percent in FY20. Half of the working population saw either job or income losses, with informal and low-skilled workers employed in elementary occupations facing the strongest loss in employment. As a result, poverty incidence is estimated to have increased in FY20 from 4.4 to 5.4 percent, using the international poverty line of $1.90 PPP 2011 per day, with more than two million people falling below this poverty line. Moreover, 40 percent of households suffered from moderate to severe food insecurity. The government, therefore, focused on mitigating the adverse socioeconomic effects of the pandemic through a stimulus package equivalent to approximately 2.9 percent of GDP and a deferment of some of the fiscal adjustment measures".


Updated estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty: Looking back at 2020 and the outlook for 2021

Using the growth forecast from April 2020 under the $1.90-a-day poverty line, we estimated that 62 million would fall into extreme poverty globally in 2020, with South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa each contributing roughly two-fifths. We revised the global estimate to between 88 and 115 million using the June-2020 growth forecast, with about half of the new poor residing in South Asia. Using the January 2021 forecast, we now estimate between 119 and 124 additional poor globally with around 60% living in South Asia.
Riaz Haq said…
Poverty in Pakistan up from 4.4pc to 5.4pc: WB

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank (WB) has estimated that poverty in Pakistan has increased from 4.4 per cent to 5.4 per cent. More than two million people have fallen below the poverty line in Pakistan.

The WB used the lower-middle-income poverty rate ($3.2 per day) and estimated that the poverty ratio in Pakistan stood at 39.3 per cent in 2020-21 and is projected to remain at 39.2 per cent in 2021-22 and might come down to 37.9 per cent by 2022-23.

By using the upper middle-income poverty rate ($5.5 per day) methods, the WB estimated that the poverty stood at 78.4 per cent in 2020-21 and it would be standing at 78.3 per cent in 2021-22 and is projected to come down to 77.5 per cent in 2022-23. The World Bank’s Macro Poverty Outlook on Pakistan stated that the incidence of poverty is estimated to have increased in FY20 from 4.4 to 5.4 per cent, using the international poverty line of $1.90 per day, with more than two million people falling below this poverty line. Moreover, 40 per cent of households suffered from moderate to severe food insecurity.

At a time when the WB has been showing rising trends in poverty, the government has just released poverty figures for 2018-19 and indicated that the poverty declined from 24.3 per cent in 2015-16 to 21.9 per cent in 2018-19 in the pre-COVID-19 period.

The WB stated that the government, therefore, focused on mitigating the adverse socioeconomic effects of the pandemic, and the IMF programme was temporarily put on hold. However, the containment measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a collapse in economic activity during the final quarter of FY20. As a result, the GDP growth is estimated to have contracted by 1.5 per cent in FY20. Half of the working population saw either job or income losses, with informal and low-skilled workers employed in elementary occupations facing the strongest contraction in employment. As a result, the poverty incidence is estimated to elementary occupations facing the strongest contraction in employment. As a result, the poverty incidence is estimated to have increased in FY20 from 4.4 to 5.4 per cent, using the international poverty line of $1.90 per day, with more than two million people falling below this poverty line. Moreover, 40 per cent of households suffered. The WB stated that major risks to the outlook include the possibility of new waves of infections, the emergence of new vaccine-resistant strains, and setbacks in mass vaccinations. In addition, more delays in the implementation of critical structural reforms could lead to further fiscal and macroeconomic imbalances.

Pakistan’s economy has been growing slowly over the past two decades. The annual per capita growth has averaged only 2 per cent, less than half of the South Asia average, partly due to inconsistent macroeconomic policies and an under reliance on investment and exports to drive economic growth. Short periods of rapid consumption-fueled growth frequently led to sizable current account and fiscal deficits, that ultimately required policy tightening, resulting in recurrent boom-bust cycles (Figure 1).

In early FY20, which runs from July 2019 to June 2020, following one such episode of external and fiscal imbalances, the country entered a 39-month IMF Extended Fund Facility. The associated adjustment measures, including fiscal consolidation, contributed to a reduction in the imbalances over the year and improved macroeconomic stability.

The Pakistani rupee appreciated by 5.4 per cent against the US dollar, from end-June 2020 to end-December 2020, and the official foreign exchange reserves increased to $14.9 billion at end-December 2020, equivalent to 3.3 months of imports of goods and services. The public debt including guaranteed debt, reached 87.9 per cent of GDP at end-December 2020, up from 86.7 per cent of GDP at end-December 2019.

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