Corona Virus pandemic is wreaking havoc all over the globe and no country is untouched by the crisis. Major world economies like U.S.A, UK, China and Japan, inclusive of other developed countries, are hit hard by the epidemic. Unemployment figures have reached the pinnacle, whereas GDP growth has hit the nadir globally.
Economy wise, underdeveloped countries like Nepal, which doesn’t boast a huge export economy hasn’t suffered as much in comparable terms, but still lack of prompt government response and inability to plan a robust recovery poses a serious threat to the economy and to almost every other realm like health, education, social stability and optimistic outlook. The major areas hit most severely by this pandemic are: tourism, remittance and daily wage households.
We were expecting a surge of tourist from 1.17 million in 2019 to 2 million in 2020, following the declaration of Visit Nepal 2020. Travel restrictions and fear of the virus have severely curtailed the plan to where the government called off this campaign altogether in March. Slow pace of maintenance of roads, up-gradation of airport and renovation of historical monuments had postponed the Visit Nepal campaign from 2018 to 2020. It now seems that we’ve to wait a year or two more to realize this ambitious project.
Remittance, a major driver of Nepalese economy which amounts to around one fourth of GDP, is facing a similar fate. Remittance is expected to drop significantly because of huge layoffs in the middle-east nations ensuing fall in their exports, exacerbated by the crash in global oil prices. On the positive note, the rise in price of dollar has provided some temporary relief to the remittance run families. Experts forecast that the current situation won’t improve drastically until the next year and the long-term impact would be felt until five years into the elimination of the treat of covid-19. Our government should think about re-settlement plan for the laid-off workers by capitalizing their skill set into manufacturing industries, entrepreneurship development and most importantly into agriculture.
Talking of agriculture, we have a mixed bag of feelings. On one hand, covid-19 triggered major disruptions in the agriculture supply chain because of transportation restrictions, unavailability of farm labour and pessimism about the contagion of virus. On the flip side, it is now clear that agriculture is the only way out, even in serious emergencies like this.
To address agricultural concerns, government must step in and propose some major regulatory measures with both short- and long-term outlook. Our immediate concerns should be ‘how to exempt agriculture from corona virus-imposed restrictions and provide relief packages for farmers, as a part of the expansionary policy of economics’. While government has implemented some innovative measures like agriculture ambulance which would run undeterred amidst the pandemic, yet slow-downs in receival of agricultural inputs (as a part of relief packages) and lack of coordination between local governments and bureaucracy is jeopardising the prospect.
Covid-19 is a unique challenge, one that is unprecedented for us in modern days. It is never too late for a reform. One lesson for the Nepal that intersects the current crisis with the crisis of 2008 is that agriculture sector is relatively more robust as compared to others and if we can cash upon it, employment and output losses can be mitigated significantly.