United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) has appreciated India's effort to establish a COVID-19 emergency fund under South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to tackle the spread of the deadly virus in the member countries.
A mention of India's efforts was made in a UNESCAP report which summarises the key impact of COVID-19 in the Asia Pacific region and suggests some short and medium-term measures for consideration by member countries. It also highlights Reserve Bank of India's decision to pump liquidity to increase access to credit for the pharmaceuticals, construction and tourism industries as an example of targeted monetary easing to support financial health of sectors that are worst hit due to COVID-19 linked economic disruption.
The report titled "The impact and policy responses for COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific" said immediate and large fiscal measures, supported by targeted monetary easing, are required to contain COVID-19, to cure people and to ensure economic and financial stability. It called for the removal of tariff and non-tariff measures that are put in place by countries to facilitate cross-border movement of essential medicines, medical equipment and teams, and other essential goods. Regional cooperation to provide an additional avenue to respond to the pandemic, by establishing a regional and/or sub-regional public health emergency fund and coordinating debt relief measures was also mooted.
The report stressed the urgent need for immediate and concerted actions at sub-regional, regional and global level to increase mutual trust, share information and experience, ensure the supply and delivery of medical materials and equipment, to build confidence in all countries to fight the virus. 'Unless measures are set in place to meet the needs of vulnerable individuals and households who are already bordering poverty, the pandemic will only widen inequality gaps further and even entrench people in poverty", it pointed out.
According to UNESCAP, the costs of neglecting vulnerable populations will have impact not only on economic activity but also on higher rates of transmission. "The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for governments in the region to build their crisis-resilience through strengthened and more systemic health and social protection measures for all. The ongoing crisis may be an opportunity to strengthen regional cooperation to tackle this cross-border pandemic, using the increased public support to build a stronger and more resilient Asia-Pacific based on inclusion, solidarity, equality, and respect for human rights", it said.