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Continued from Previous……

Agriculture and food security was also affected by COVID19 pandemic. This might have been ignored by general public in relation to impacts of COVID19.

[Quote] The farming sector of Pakistan has not only served as a backbone for food security but has always been a major sup- port to the economy, being the highest contributor to GDP. Pakistan is the 8th largest producer of wheat, 10th largest of rice, 5th of sugarcane and 4th largest producer of milk in the world. Even with this standing, only 63.1% of the population has adequate supply of food sources to be considered as “food secure” (UNICEF 2018). The agriculture sector in the country is facing various challenges including the recent pandemic which has disrupted the production by limiting the work force and restricting transport facilities for dispatching the harvested crops. Before the advent of this pandemic, the agriculture sector was sustaining the impact of wide-scale locust attack which has severely damaged various crops exerting economic stress on the associated farmers. [Unquote]

Allied issues also included decline in export of fruits such as Mangoes, further hitting the export which went down generally. Pakistan exports other food articles such as wheat, rice, vegetables, citrus fruit, seafood and meat. Since these are perishable items (except wheat and rice), these could not be stored for exporting in future when situation got better.

Economic impact is greatest in the sense that all other stresses ultimately contribute to economic stress.

About 24% population of Pakistan was estimated to live below poverty line before COVID19 pandemic, if the poverty line was defined as income less than 1.25$ (when this was calculated, exchange rate was 100 rupees = 1 US dollar. The income has not risen, but exchange rate has changed to 160 rupees = 1 USD. If we take USD as benchmark, then millions more would be counted below poverty line. The study estimates 33.7% increase in poverty level in case of low recession, 44.2% in medium recession and 58.6% in case of high recession. We are in recession anyway.

[Quote] COVID-19-induced labour market backlash can be attributed to three major aspects including the decline in the number of employment opportunities owing to the closure of various state sectors. The second aspect can be described as the qualitative decline in employment type in terms of the absence of additional benefits or relief schemes in case of health problems or any other stress which is usually termed as social protection. The third aspect is the disproportionate influence on vulnerable sectors of the market which include the old-aged, women or people with physical impairments and small-scale private earners

It is challenging for micro-enterprises that dominate the business sector in Pakistan to observe compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) encapsulated by the government to ensure workers’ protection. As a result, most of these enterprises have permanently suspended their employees after the lockdown... The restaurants, hospitality sector, education institutes, small retail markets and the transport industry can be considered as the most adversely impacted sectors by the pandemic. Nearly Lockdown has been considered as the only way of controlling the disease spread while flattening the virus escalation curve. As a result, in Pakistan the government also announced complete lockdown from March 23 to May 9, 2020, involving various sectors including educational institutes, businesses and public trans- port in all the provinces. As per the government guidelines, people employed in formal sector enjoyed job security and were also being paid during this lockdown, but those associ- ated with informal sector had no access to all these benefits, and most of them were suspended. From the global instances, it was analysed that the daily wagers, street vendors, domestic helpers, people involved in courier and delivery services, cleaners and waste collection personnel possess the maximum disease exposure risk. The informal work force encountered joint issues of coronavirus infection and economic stress resulting in deprivation of food and daily necessities. [Unquote]

The tackling of economic impact of COVID19 has been done through several measures by the government. Several billion rupees were distributed to low-income families who were hit severely. Government provided salary of employees through banks at special low mark-up rates. Utility bills were divided into installments. Some other measures to stimulate the economy were also put in place. The effects of these measures are yet to be seen.

Presently, we are facing the third wave of COVID. It is considered to be more infective and more fatal due to new strains of corona virus. The hospital beds are filling up quickly. The vaccination drive is already in place but only a small percentage of population has been vaccinated till now. This is another serious concern that when shall we be able to vaccinate public at large.

Government is struggling to balance economic compulsions with health needs. It is not an easy task, of course. Public is advised to take strict measures to contain the spread of COVID, so that the already burdened healthcare system does not collapse.

I wish everyone to stay safe and healthy.


Acknowledgement. I hereby express my deep gratitude to Dr. Rizwan Rasheed for allowing me to use their article for my blogpost.

Disclaimer. Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images which does not show anyone’s copyright claim. However, if any such claim is presented, we shall remove the image with suitable regrets.

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