Protect economy, the poor from coronavirus pandemic

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020 00:00 |

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The coronavirus pandemic has thrust humanity into unprecedented times and mitigating its impact calls for unprecedented decisions, policies and actions.

It is beyond what it should have been— a health concern. Since its outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it has morphed into a monster that has crashed the global socio-economic fabric for now and foreseeable future,

Though Kenya and Africa, have yet to suffer the level of devastation witnessed in Italy, UK and US, the impact of the slowed economic activities has hit the most vulnerable populations.

The challenge for fragile economies is enacting measures to stop the spread of the virus while at the same time ensuring testing, treating, tracing and isolating of those infected.

For instance, the government is under pressure to engage its debtors on suspension and waivers of debt to ensure  fiscal relief as Covid-19 digs into the soul of the economy.

If the country manages to bag these deals, it will not only get the money for the life-saving stimulus package for the economy that is sliding deeper into depression, but also buy time for people-centric policies rollout.

A lot of sectors are hardly making ends meet, with manufacturing, hospitality and agriculture sectors hit hardest, leading to massive job cuts.

Whatever the government does, its focus must be on how to cushion the economy and the vulnerable. This calls for  a realistic marshal plan to not only protect jobs, but create more besides ensuring food security.

The State must ensure there is more money in circulation, settle pending bills and negotiate for cheaper credit for small and medium scale enterprises.

Other measures, include interventions to ensure utilities such as water, power, oil, gas, and paraffin are available and affordable.

It is commendable that the government has set aside funds for transfer to vulnerable groups— the elderly, people living with disabilities and orphans. Selected households in Nairobi are receiving a weekly stipend on pilot scheme.

But the challenge is the honesty and transparency in the programmes.  Already, there are concerns that the intended beneficiaries are either not getting the funds or are being blackmailed by crooked officials to part with some of the money.

We urge the government to probe the claims and punish those involved in such schemes that could derail the noble programme.

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