It has shown that the fastest road to recovery for any country is mass immunisation of the population with the COVID-19 vaccine
The World Bank has predicted a strong rebound of the global economy in 2021, but it is likely to elude many developing countries. In its latest Global Economic Prospects, revealed Tuesday, the bank said the global economy would grow 5.6 per cent this year, against the 4.1 per cent forecast earlier this year in January. This growth projection for the world makes it the fastest since the 6.6 per cent recorded in 1973. However, much of the growth will be seen in the rich countries such as the United States and Europe, and China. According to the report, South Asia will see a rebound of 6.8 per cent this year, 3.6 percentage points higher than previously projected, but India will account for most of the upgrade propelled by strong services sector activities and private consumption.
But returning to pre-pandemic levels for it will take time, although 90 per cent of the advanced economies are expected to do so next year.
The predictions of a strong rebound in the global economy, not seen in the last five decades, have been made on the assumption that the mass COVID-19 vaccinations and the government stimulus packages running into trillions of dollars in the rich countries will stimulate growth worldwide. However, poor countries like Nepal that have neither been able to mass vaccinate their population or roll out stimulus packages are unlikely to share the global growth. Instead, the pandemic is expected to push millions of people into higher poverty, made the worse by higher food prices due to a rise in agricultural commodities worldwide over the last year. Adding to these woes, schools have remained closed for the greater part of the pandemic while people are unable to work to eke out a living due to the lockdown imposed to break the chain of infection.
As the developed world has shown, the fastest road to recovery for any country is mass immunisation of the population with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Following mass vaccination programmes, the US has opened to business and so has Europe, although cautiously. Spain this week welcomed vaccinated visitors or those who could prove they do not have the coronavirus, hoping to revive its tourism industry.
However, only time will tell if it is too early to open up the economy as no one knows how long the pandemic will linger on, with new variants of the virus that spread even faster being reported every now and then. Nepal, which launched its vaccination drive in late January with a goal of vaccinating 72 per cent of its population aged 14 years and above, has been left in the lurch after vaccinating less than 5 per cent of the eligible people with a double dose. While the Western world has been very generous with medical equipment such as ventilators, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, and face masks, in response to the government's appeal for help to control the raging coronavirus, the much-needed vaccines have failed to arrive. Nepal is willing to pay for the vaccines and has set aside a huge budget for the vaccination programme, but the developed world must be prepared to provide them at no-profit or lower prices so that everyone can be vaccinated as quickly as possible before another wave of the pandemic sets in.
Focus on rural areas
Although COVID-19 infections have come down in the urban centres in recent times, it has surged dramatically in the rural parts of the country, as many people, who had gone to India for seasonal work there, have returned home with symptoms of the coronavirus. During the first phase of the COV- ID-19 last year, few cases of the virus were detected in the rural areas because of the strict measures taken by the local levels and security personnel manned at the entry points and temporary quarantine centres.
A report from the far-flung district of Bajura suggests that cases of COVID-19 have gone up in all the nine local levels, overwhelming the poorly managed and ill-equipped health facilities. The health workers and doctors are struggling to cope with the increasing number of infected people. In order to bring the situation under control, the central government needs to supply the urgently needed medical equipment and goods received recently from various friendly countries. These medical equipment and goods, which can be used by the health workers, doctors and COVID patients, can be helpful in containing the virus from further spreading in the community until all eligible people are vaccinated.
A version of this article appears in the print on June 10, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.