ISLAMABAD          -          The pandemic of Covid-19 has posed a serious challenge to developing countries to keep the food supply intact, mainly countries with highly dense population especially in Asia-Pacific region, say economic experts. Experts expressed these views with the audience at an online policy dialogue titled ‘UNESCAP’s Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2020 – Lessons for Pakistan’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) here on Wednesday. Former Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Dr Shamshad Akhtar said that the financing capacity of Pakistan had been quite low like other developing countries. However, the cushion that recent facilitation by international financing institutions had provided in order to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, had provided the opportunity to invest in the healthcare systems and social security by ensuring that there would be no food shortage in the country, she added.   Dr Daniel Joeng-Dae Lee, Economic Affairs Officer, UNESCAP, with the help of a detailed Presentation on UNESCAP’s Survey 2020, highlighted that the high economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region helped in lifting almost a billion people out of extreme poverty in the past two decades.

“The Asia-Pacific region seems missing the 17 Goals by 2030 and the largest regression is in Goal 12 that is about ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns”, he said.  

The Covid-19 pandamic, he added that could become a catalyst to change the development approach that prioritizes people and the planet. In Pakistan’s context, he said, Pakistan Climate Act-2017 and plan on reducing reliance on coal provide the solid basis for the right actions and the steps under the Green Pakistan Financing could help in achieving the targets.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, explained the nature of the challenges posed by COVID-19 for creating sustainable economies and said that the looming food crisis in the region posed by the pandemic demands a broader and greater regional cooperation. The SAARC could have played a very active role in coping with the impacts. However, it’s quite regrettable that this opportunity is being lost here for not showing enough maturity.

“We need to figure out the way forward for a sustainable production and consumption system,” Dr Suleri said and added that campaigning for the enhanced social protection, sustainable food supply chain developing virtual platforms for regional to global exchanges are the some of the areas that need our urgent attention to respond to emerging challenges. 

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director SDPI, on the occasion said that Covid-19 presents an opportunity to pursue actions necessary to undertake the sustainable consumption and production. This will require governments to foster partnerships with businesses and industry to promote green investments and apply sustainable business practices across the value chain, he said.

He said the central bank can play important role in designing financial products which help startups and social enterprises to opt for innovative and green production technologies.