Medium term focus areas to overcome COVID-19 impact
Medium term focus areas to overcome COVID-19 impact

Medium term focus areas to overcome COVID-19 impact

COVID-19 crisis is a bolt from the blue. There is no precedent of this particular strain of the Coronavirus , and hence, any projections of its impact can at best be treated as intelligent guesses.

This is Part-4 of a series of an article written by Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary & Mission Director (Smart Cities Mission), Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, on the likely impacts of the Coronavirus on India; the best strategies going forward; and the key focus areas and actions for the short, medium and long terms.

Read more on his article onCoronavirus: What have you done to our economy and society? here 

Read more on his article on Best strategies to overcome the COVID-19 impact here 

Read more on his article onKey focus areas and actions – Short term here

Read more on his article onKey focus areas and actions – Long termhere 

Key focus areas and actions for the medium term
1. The focus has to be on rapid economic revival. The government has announced a crisis management package of 1.7 lakh crore recently, which may need to be scaled up to close to 5-6 per cent of GDP considering the magnitude of the crisis. Within that package, resources would have to be found to support sectors (automobile, aviation, travel and leisure, construction , retail , etc) most severely impacted by the crisis. These sectors would have to be supported through incentives, moratoriums and easy availability of credit. NPAs, debt/earnings ratios may be allowed to be breached for a considered short term period in order to support quick revival.

2. Investments into expansion of the healthcare system would need to be continued. A major emphasis may have to be given on the development/ sourcing of a vaccine to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Collaboration with international agencies and being nestled in global efforts in this direction would be immensely important. States are playing the most important role at the forefront of dealing with the crisis. They face constraints in using resources for the crisis as their hands are tied with laws like the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003. It is time that the restraints applicable by virtue of the Act are relaxed for the current financial year. A free hand would have to be given to the states to ramp up testing infrastructure, health facilities and buying vaccines as per their need.

3. A new paradigm of trust-based collaboration between local government and citizens may be explored. This new paradigm shall be citizen-centric and solution-focused rather than government-centric, and problem-focused. In this new paradigm, citizens may be invited to become suppliers of resources, data, solutions and actions at the local community level. In such a paradigm of demand-side-supply creation, the citizens (demand side), become solution providers (supply side), thereby igniting a virtuous cycle of complementary value that is amplified through mutual trust. Such platforms would be of great value in not only creating awareness in society regarding important messages but can stir local action in times of crisis rapidly and in great numbers.

4. Focused attention to informal and unorganised sector should be a top priority as they are mostly lost sight of from such economic interventions in absence of proper documentation and structured institutional arrangements. However, even though gradually moving them towards formalisation should be the long-term goal of policy, it should not be a priority in the short term. NREGA could act as a great source of relief for the labour force who cannot join back work immediately. PDS systems should be expanded and extra amount of grains may be provided to large sections of the population, without bothering too much about targeting any particular economic classes. Special focus on checking malnutrition among the poor, improved outreach to the poor through ASHA workers, Anganwadis and other similar infrastructure could be looked at.

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