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Perspectives on COVID-19 recovery agenda and the private sector

Adeze Ojukwu

The private sector is not often highly esteemed for its significant contributions to peace and progress of society.

The bid to curb the vicious coronavirus, has however changed  this perspective, given the massive support from business tycoons, corporate giants and multilaterals towards fighting the pandemic across nations and regions.

Indeed the enormous commitment of funds and resources by uncountable men and women, behind the multi-billion dollar companies, are no longer in doubt.

Rabiu

Many of them opened their vaults and facilities to support the global and national efforts towards halting the pandemic.

Some industrialists bankrolled the production of vaccines while others provided essential hospital supplies, with some even offering their hotels and buildings as  hospitals and isolation centers.

In Nigeria alone, top philanthropists, banks and oil companies donated billions of funds to defray medical cost for covid-19 treatment of patients in the last one year.

Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, as well as  Femi Otedola, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Tony Elumelu, Folorunsho Alakija, Jim Ovia, Oba Otudeko and Segun Agbaje led the consortium of  donors to finance the nation’s anti-Covid campaign.

Several countries leaned on privately-sourced monies to provide critical care to sick nationals, transportation and palliatives for vulnerable citizens, as the plague decimated lives and livelihoods.

At the world stage, Bill Gates and other kind-hearted billionaires, ramped up billions of dollars to support global interventions against the deadly infection.

The Global Vaccine Alliance(GAVI) for instance, mobilized massive resources to fund manufacturing of vaccines, to contain the disease across the world.

Sadly the disease has claimed no fewer than two million persons.  Few weeks back, the United Nations(UN) Secretary General, António Guterres announced the disheartening figure, while lamenting the impact of the pandemic.

However, without the generosity of these philanthropists, many more lives would have been lost to this haemorraging disease.

Ovia

Cheerily, Guterres, in a recent forum, hailed business leaders and corporate organizations, for their incredible sacrifices towards efforts to defeat the scourge.

‘The private sector has a key role to play in lifting countries out of both the COVID-19 and climate crises. We need you more than ever to help us change course, end fragility, avert climate catastrophe and build the equitable and sustainable future we want and need.’

The UN chief made the appeal, last Monday, while delivering a speech at the Davos Agenda gathering of the World Economic Forum(WEF), which held  online this year, instead of in the Swiss Alps.

The initiative featured a full week of global programming dedicated to helping leaders choose innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery over the next year. Heads of state, chief executives, civil society leaders and the global media were billed to actively participate in almost 100 sessions spanning five themes.’

‘The Forum also engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agenda.’

The Secretary-General addressed the forum, which featured the release of the organization’s  latest COVID-19 recovery report.

According to the projection the global economic recovery from the pandemic remains precarious.

‘COVID-19 has generated the worst economic crisis for nearly a century, exposing inequalities and fragilities both within and among countries, Mr. Guterres said, speaking from New York.

‘We have reached a moment of truth. In 2021 we must address these fragilities and put the world on track,’ he stated.

‘It is time to change course and take the sustainable path. And, this year, we have a unique opportunity to do so. We can use our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to move from fragilities to resilience.’

Agbaje

He emphasized that the pandemic recovery must be inclusive, while also tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.

Harping on vaccines for all, he said ‘inclusive and sustainable recovery around the globe will depend on the availability and effectiveness of vaccines for all, immediate fiscal and monetary support in both developed and developing countries, and transformative longer-term stimulus measures.’

While COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, distribution has been uneven, he noted lamenting that ‘richer nations have received doses, while the world’s poorest countries have none.’

Reiterating that vaccines must be seen, as global public goods, he called for ‘funding for the COVAX Facility, the mechanism working to ensure equal access to all countries.’

He also underlined ‘the need to address structural inequalities that have made so many societies vulnerable, including through debt relief for countries that need it.’

‘We also need to bring more fairness into the world of work. That means that we reduce the very high increase disparities we have in incomes today in the labour markets. And it means closing the gender pay gap, ensuring women’s full and productive employment and increasing women’s participation in decision-making at all levels,’ he stressed.

On climate change, the Secretary-General stressed that the central goal this year is to build a global coalition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

‘Every country, city, financial institution and company needs to adopt credible plans backed by intermediate goals for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050, and to take decisive action now to put themselves on the right path,’ he said, adding ‘every sector must do its part, from aviation and agriculture to transport, shipping and industry.’

The world also needs to “flick the ‘green switch’” to renewable energy, which will create new jobs and a healthier future. The UN chief said all of this is within reach, as more countries register their commitment.

He called for private sector action towards achieving a sustainable future for all, and in implementing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which seeks to limit global warming.

‘We count on businesses to play an important role by themselves and to put pressure on governments. Every action, big or small counts, but those with greater capabilities and resources should lead the way,’ he said.

The devastating fallouts from the pandemic will be felt for years unless smart investments in economic, societal and climate resilience ensure a robust and sustainable recovery of the global economy.

This grim verdict, was posted by the  UN  in the latest edition of The World Economic Situation and Prospects report, published on Monday.

‘The world economy shrank by 4.3 per cent last year, which is over 2.5 times more than during the financial crisis a decade ago.  The authors said the modest 4.7 per cent recovery expected this year would barely offset those losses,’ the study revealed.

From all indications, developed economies shrank the most in 2020, or by 5.6 per cent, due to economic shutdowns and subsequent waves of the pandemic.  This has increased the risk of premature austerity measures which would derail global recovery efforts.’

According to the report, these nations are projected to see four per cent growth in 2021.

Meanwhile, developing countries saw a 2.5 per cent contraction in 2020 and are estimated to rebound by 5.6 per cent.

‘The pandemic also pushed 131 million more people into poverty, many of whom were women, children, and members of marginalized communities.  The crisis has disproportionately affected women and girls, who have faced increased risk of devastation, poverty and violence.’

‘Women also comprise more than half of the workforce in sectors that have been hard hit by lockdowns, such as retail, hospitality and tourism.’

‘Although some $12.7 trillion in massive and timely stimulus measures prevented a total collapse of the world economy and averted another ‘Great Depression’, last manifest in the 1930s, stark disparity in the size of these packages mean developed and developing countries will be on different paths to recovery.’

Additionally, ‘financing stimulus packages has increased public debt globally by 15 per cent, representing a potential burden for future generations unless investments are made to promote growth.’

Additionally, the report underscores that ‘sustained recovery will depend not only on the size of stimulus measures, and the quick rollout of vaccines, but also on the quality and efficacy of these measures to build resilience against future shocks.’

UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Elliott Harris, said ‘the depth and severity of the unprecedented crisis foreshadows a slow and painful recovery.’

‘As we step into a long recovery phase with the roll out of the vaccines against COVID-19, we need to start boosting longer-term investments that chart the path toward a more resilient recovery.’

This new chart should also be ‘accompanied by a fiscal stance that avoids premature austerity and a redefined debt sustainability framework, universal social protection schemes, and an accelerated transition to the green economy.’

Nigeria will do well to pay more than a cursory attention to this wise counsel.

.Ojukwu is a Fellow of Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, publisher, editor  and  serial newspaper columnist. She is an advocate for improved socio-economic and health services for all citizens, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS). Please kindly send feedback to [email protected]

 

 

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