By Ing. Yayah A. B. Conteh.
Virtually no country has escaped unscathed from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world economy in particular. Researchers the worldover have asserted that in an interconnected global economy, none has remained immune from the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the point of view of numerical analysis, more than one million people have lost their lives since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease a year ago, in 2019. Studies carried out in the midst of the pandemic confirmed that millions of jobs were lost, and are still being lost, worldwide. Equally, millions of livelihoods are still at risk, and it is projected that an estimated additional 130 million people will be living in abject poverty if the crisis persists.
Consequent upon all these challenges, it was observed that the global economy contracted by a staggering percentage during the just concluded year,2020.
The figures quoted above are grim ones which reflect the immense challenges and human suffering and degradation caused by this pandemic.
Thus the economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic has been quite challenging and devastating. An existential threat is faced by millions of enterprises globally and nearly half of the world’s global workforce are at risk of losing their livelihoods should the pandemic continue to flourish unabated.
Without the means to even a decent income during lockdowns, the informal economy workers are particularly vulnerable because of inaccessibility to quality health care, for example. This discourages them from being unable to feed themselves and their families. Therefore, no income means no food to cater for the welfare of family members.
In most African countries including Sierra Leone, for example, international boarder closure measures were instituted, thus preventing not only farmers but traders too from accessing markets for ease of different shades of transactions.
As a result of these trade restrictions and confinement measures adopted by most home governments, farmers could neither buy nor even sell their produce. Agricultural workers could not themselves harvest their crops. This singular act disrupted domestic and international food supply chains and reduced access to healthy, safe, diverse and nutritious diets. The pandemic has thus not just been affecting the entire food system globally but has also exposed bare its fragility.
Thus, it may not only be correct and prudent to state here that the COVID-19 pandemic only unleashed a global economic shock in the health sector, but that it also shook the trade and development landscape to its roots too.
As the virus gradually spread from its place of origin in China to other parts of the world, international trade plunged dramatically with a far reaching effect. Even global production and employment in general have been slashed to the minimum.
It is no gainsaying here that the world economy has been gravely torn to shreds by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving in its wake serious consequences that have massively impacted not only individuals but communities as well.
This damage on the world economy has catapulted a global health crisis into a global economic shock that has hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
Vulnerable and disadvantaged low-income households, migrants, workers in the informal sector and, often, women, have had to contend with the real and disproportionate consequences provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As may be expected, many of these populations are not protected by social safety nets and yet are particularly affected by soaring unemployment.
Some countries like Sierra Leone have strengthened gender-sensitive policy responses to address the issue of women.
A specific review of girls’ education in the country was embarked upon by the 2020 Economic Update. It went on to highlight that similar to the 2014 Ebola crisis, COVID-19 too was likely to affect adolescent girls’ educational prospects and their human capital potentials.
Evidence has shown that adolescent girls were especially at risk when they vacated school, as the risks of getting married or bearing an unwanted child too early in life were magnified.
Consequently therefore, child marriage and early child- bearing made it hard for girls to later return to school and resume normal school functions. This led to long-lasting negative impacts on the girl –child education. The need therefore to prioritize investments in girls was clearly identified in the report.
This discussion cannot be completed without mention of the tourism and microenterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises which constitute some of the sectors that have been tremendously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and which employ many vulnerable groups. These sectors have always served as financial relief for all classes of employees, women being in the majority.
Lest we forget the impact of the crisis on the external finances of some national economies. Reduced to the barest minimum are channels of assistance in the form of remittances from close relatives abroad which play a key role for many of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world.
Further endangering the efforts of many countries at mobilizing sufficient resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is the COVID-19 pandemic which has given rise to unsustainable debt burdens in many developing countries, and which has equally posed a challenge to most of them.
Much uncertainty still hovers around the world about how and when this deadly pandemic will phase out from the midst of humanity.
The reason for this is that the end to COVID-19 is not yet in sight, as the number of new COVID-19 cases is rising at an exponential rate. This tends to spell doom because to many, they conclude that a second wave is already an unwelcome reality.
What has seemed to compound the problem more and more is the unprecedented economic shock occasioned by the global health emergency which has already sharply exposed the global economy’s pre-existing weaknesses, severely setting back development progress across the globe.
Thanks to the recent findings that have highlighted the importance of a comprehensive and a coordinated global policy response to the pandemic, which has included global efforts to ensure swift developments of medical resources. This has culminated to the discovery and availability of vaccines specially designed and prepared to seek a remedy to the COVID-19 global menace.
We do hope and anticipate that the efforts channeled in this direction will eventually make a breakthrough.
Ing. Yayah A. B. Conteh is the Director of The Mechanical Services Department (MSD) of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA).
Tel. nos : 076640364 / 077718805.
E-mail : email@example.com.