Sunday, 1 August, 2021

Building Resilient Economy After The Pandemic

Apsana Kafle


Today’s era is a time of uncertainties. COVID-19 has created an unprecedented global situation, which requires unprecedented measures to cope with the immediate crisis and long-term impacts. It has also created a vacuum of uncertainties on how socio-economic system will recuperate and become resilient after the pandemic.
It wouldn’t be surprising to say that by the time we recover from this pandemic, there will be an entire new spectrum of problems facing us such as natural or human induced calamities, unemploument, hunger, climate change etc. Although the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the first unprecedented situation to affect globally, the depth and breadth of its effect on ecological health systems, global economy and social cost is very high.
The economic sector in Nepal has fallen significantly from the average growth rate of 7.3 per cent for the last three consecutive years to 2.27 per cent in the FY 2019/20 (World Bank, 2020). One of the major reasons why the economic sector is most affected globally and nationally is due to the practice of prioritising short term economic growth over long term efficiency and resilience. However, this havoc has imparted a high level of public consciousness and opportunities to build and plan resilient recovery in the future.
Building a resilient economy means to bounce back from the current collapsed economy and leap a step ahead despite market resistance and uncertainty. This means building a resilient economy should be in two folds. Firstly, it should be able to address the immediate concerns which in our context are providing subsistence and livelihood diversification activities and secondly, should sustainably be able to deal with long term issues that will inevitably arise as the pandemic relaxes.
The pandemic has reinforced the link between health, environment and economic sectors. So, building a resilient economy should be able to interlink these aspects. The future economic investments in Nepal should be inclined towards building sustainable green infrastructure. This has been proven by the data from the 2008-09 economic crisis where South Korea had concentrated almost 70 per cent of its investment towards green measures and thus was among the fastest countries to rebound in OECD.
Sustainable green infrastructure here means investment in clean alternate energy such as solar and hydroelectricity as they can assure more employment generation and promote a carbon neutral future. With the development of sustainable infrastructure, shifting to more sustainable practice on a personal level is crucial. Some of such sustainable practices include urban agriculture farming for immediate food needs, recycling and reusing of products to avoid solid waste and additional financial costs.
The World Food Programme has estimated that after the pandemic, the food insecurity has significantly increased and the risk of starvation globally has doubled to 265 million. This data strongly implies that building a sustainable economy should be relied through strengthening localisation and private sector involvement. Promoting localisation through sustainable use of natural resources and stewardship of biodiversity provides opportunities for economic diversification and reduces the material supply chain. This makes the countries self-sufficient to cope up with resource scarcity. The diverse geography and culture of Nepal makes it a rich country with traditional knowledge and practices that are resilient and adaptable. Localisation in Nepal should be promoted through the use of nature based solutions and traditional practices. A very simple example could be the use of bamboo products varying from daily housewares like mats, baskets and fabrics to big ticket items such as furniture, construction materials etc.
Inclusive and productive private sector development promotes local resource and knowledge use, generates local employment and most importantly promotes counter cycle finance during crisis. Development of agribusiness and forestry business can balance the demand supply food chain on the one hand and also provide employment to millions of returned migrated workers on the other.
The pandemic has conveyed the importance of strengthened cooperation, internationally and locally. It has also taught us how important it is to be self-sufficient and resourceful. Similarly, it is crucial to develop policy towards monetary support and developing social protection systems through initial relief to vulnerable communities for promoting public services and green growth. Policy designs and implementation strategies should follow the roadmap of SDG centrally focussing on inclusiveness, zero greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the pressure on biodiversity and ecosystems.

(Apsana Kafle is a Bachelor's level student at the Institute of Forestry, Pokhara)