Pandemic impacts on SDG and Welfare Policy

In throes of an unprecedented global pandemic, FY21 has begun on a lacklustre note with India as well as several world economies in an extended lockdown. This has impacted the underlying demand/supply dynamics and is expected to have an adverse impact on the economy and corporate earnings. India Inc has been working from home for over 40 days now due to the pan-India lockdown enforced by the government as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of COVID-19. When a population of 1.3 billion is locked down in their homes various implications are bound to occur. And you don’t need any rocket science to understand that.

Quite significantly, the current pandemic is already threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems and undermine political systems that find themselves ill-equipped to manage an emergency of this scale. These strains on social stability and government capacities are exacerbated by an economic crisis of greater magnitude than the 2008 financial crisis. Effective responses and recovery plans will, therefore, need to take into account the pandemic’s multiple dimensions as well as its deep roots in environmental stresses and global mobility. And as COVID-19 upends lives and livelihoods across the planet, the UN recently held a wide-ranging policy discussion stressing a range of multilateral solutions to ease the pandemic, while also getting back on track towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The recovery process, according to IGES (Institute for Global Environmental Strategies) serves as a critical occasion to materialize much-needed transformative change toward a sustainable society. Some solutions will be needed in the immediate future while others will be important over the longer term. As such, IGES has conducted this preliminary analysis to understand the environmental and sustainability challenges associated with the crisis, and their potential solutions, by categorizing core issues requiring attention in the “short-term”, “medium-term”, and “long-term”. With the aim of contributing to the creation of a resilient and sustainable world and to help minimize pandemic risks in the future, IGES has already started and will continue to lead research on the implications of COVID-19.

Now talking about the scope of sustainable development works in the post-Covid 19 world, what comes to one’s mind first os the lack of planning and preparation for the sudden outbreak, which has starkly demonstrated the importance of resilience: the ability for human systems to anticipate, cope, and adapt. Resilience is also critical to how the world responds to climate change, where further temperature increases are now nearly certain. Therefore our communities and institutions must succeed in planning for and adapting to climate change or risk further heartbreak and tragedy.

It will have to be ensured that the economic stimulus and other support packages pave the way to a more sustainable economy and do not lock us further into a high-carbon future. Periods of high unemployment and low interest rates are the right time for new low-carbon investments and infrastructure, including the kind required to support the transition to clean energy.

Explaining how this sustainable economic model may look like or work in a country like India, Vinay Paranjpe, executive director, Dubai-headquartered UMC, says,  “As a nation we went through a 1000 years of oppression and foreign occupation which we survived. If anything, it honed the survival instincts already present in our genetic make-up. This innate survival instinct, which looks crazy from other perspective, will help us in such times. The population which many often be perceived as a burden, is the very factor which makes our economy self-sustainable and reasonably independent of foreign influences even in today’s world.”

 “In reality, rural India is largely un-touched by most MNCs and yet it operates quite well! It is only now that many parts are getting accessed. Thus creating small ‘sustainable cells’ out of existing villages will be a brilliant option. We would be under-estimating the intelligence of the rural population or ‘village folks’, if we feel that they were not capable of creating business models which would support their own lot,” says Paranjpe.

Mind you that in developed countries, frontline workers in the service economy are among the most exposed to the virus and the least able to absorb its financial impact. And the hardest hit will be the poor in developing countries, where already-struggling workers will not have the benefit of social safety nets and stimulus packages. The G7 and G20 must immediately help these countries to finance the flattening of the pandemic curve. On a longer term, there is a need to redouble efforts to foster sustainable economic systems, including fair trade and investment.

Broadly speaking, the scope for sustainable development works in the post-Corona world will come from: management of medical waste, managing the adverse impacts of air pollution, uptake of sustainable workstyles and lifestyles, promotion of green recovery, creating a resilient and sustainable society, the promotion of regional circulating and ecological spheres (Regional-CES), which aim for holistic sustainable development at the regional level through integrated efforts toward achieving diverse, social, economic and environmental targets, sound urban environmental measures in developing countries, measures for climate adaptation planning, measures to control global risks (mind you that, it has again been proven that increasingly globalised risks such as this pandemic can result in massive socio-economic impacts, i.e. disruptions of global supply chains and the collapse of global tourism. Policies and measures, both international and domestic, are therefore considered necessary to make supply chains more sustainable and resilient).Once is a mistake but, twice is a sin. Therefore, green and transformational pathways should become the norm, not an exception!

Author Profile
Ritwik Mukherjee, Senior journalist and renowned author, Cultural Diplomat and advocate for green and clean energy issues.

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