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October 24, 2020

Experts mull ways to mitigate economic impact of COVID-19

Islamabad

October 24, 2020

Islamabad : International technical experts joined high-level federal and provincial government official here on Friday for a discussion on ways to improve public spending on health, explore alternative financing mechanisms to enhance revenue generating capacity, reprioritise health budgets, and take measures to revive the economy.

The occasion was an international consultative meeting on ‘Economic aspects of COVID-19 in Pakistan.’ Organised by the Health Services Academy, the Ministry of National Health Services, and the Population Think Tank, the meeting featured sharing of evidence and efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on Pakistan’s economy.

The PM’s Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr. Sania Nishtar highlighted government’s response to COVID-19. She elaborated how an immediate financial protection mechanism was developed for the very poor and those working in the informal sector.

Dr. Shabnum Sarfraz, Member Social Sector and Devolution, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, said her ministry promptly established a coordination mechanism of foreign assistance to contain the impact of COVID-19. Dr. Awad Mataria from the World Health Organisation highlighted the need for transforming health financing mechanisms and need for different funding strategies to make money available for health in times of need.

Eazaz Aslam Dar, Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs Division, discussed the health budget allocation and expenditures and difficulties in the processes that may result in underutilization of services or lapses in funds due to lack of absorptive capacity.

Dr. Ali Hamandi from the World Bank called for creating fiscal space for health and the importance of overall conducive economic environment in which more funds can be mobilized for health.

Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, an international public health expert, presented multi-country evidence about the direct and indirect socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

The meeting invited feedback from stakeholders on key strategic questions. The participants agreed to identify challenges that may hinder efforts for economic revival. In this regard, improved data collection and analysis, efficient use of existing resources and controlling wasteful use of resources, and emergency preparedness were noted for improvements.

The meeting concluded with consensus on the need for enhanced collaborative efforts while ensuring social and economic progression. Syed Atta-ur-Rehman, Additional Secretary, Ministry of National Health Services, committed to strive for better efficiency in fund utilization and enhance efforts for securing more funds for health. The vice chancellor of Health Services Academy pledged continued support for further work in this important area.