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Stimulus packages should reach the most vulnerable

By Meshack Kimutai Ruto | June 6th 2020

The novel coronavirus has caused untold suffering across the world. Many companies and small businesses are struggling to stay afloat while others have entirely shut doors, leading to jobs losses in millions.  

The world has never seen anything like this before. Past pandemics didn’t travel as fast and wide across the globe because continents and countries were not as interconnected as they are today.

Thanks to technology and expansion in the aviation industry, the world has been reduced to a small village. Easy and quick movement of people and goods means a pandemic in one corner of the globe can easily be carried to another corner within no time.

As the world grapples with the complexity of challenges posed by Covid-19, the biggest concern should focus on people whose livelihoods have been wiped away.  It is fine to save big corporates as they play major economic roles. However, it is the vulnerable in the society that will feel the devastating impact of the virus more. The safety nets that are being designed, particularly in Africa, should provide adequate cushion for millions now unable to make ends meet.

While the virus has laid to waste vast parts of the globe, most of the people adversely affected are in Africa, the home of the worst levels of poverty anywhere in the world. Even without the pandemic, Africa was already reeling from starvation, myriad economic challenges, lack of jobs for millions of youth, and weak health systems.

Admittedly, most African countries have been spared the worst effects of the pandemic yet. But this is no time to celebrate. While we fervently pray for the ugly face of Covid-19 not to show up on our shores, we must brace themselves should the worst happen. Africa should hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

Kenya, like many of her peers on the continent, faces stark realities associated with the pandemic. One of the foremost challenges is how to revive the local economy that has been extensively ravaged by the pandemic. Stimulus packages have been rolled out in a bid to keep companies as well as Small and Medium Enterprises going in order to save jobs and livelihoods.  

This is the right thing to do in such distressing and destabilising situations. However, it is one thing to have stimulus packages and quite another to ensure they work as intended. For these stimulus packages to work, they should target sectors critical to the economy. These are the source of livelihoods for millions of Kenyans with the biggest share of jobs on offer.

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Ensuring that these vital economic pillars are going strong will lessen the burden of joblessness that was already heavy even before the pandemic struck.

Without ingenious strategies and serious efforts to turn around the economy in the aftermath of coronavirus, the grim situation that the youth face will be grimmer post-Covid. Statistics do not look good already. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics figures show that about 770,000 youths lost their jobs in three months to March this year. The number of young people between the ages of 20 and 34 who are in employment or run an enterprise fell by about 10 per cent.

It behooves the Government to ensure stimulus packages have the greatest positive impact. It must also realise that fully reviving the economy will take far more than stimulus packages. Needed will be forward-thinking and ingenious strategies that in-build resilience into the economic fabric and thus cushion Kenyans against the storms and shocks such as the ones that are currently being experienced.

The pandemic must also serve as a lesson for economies and businesses to put in place modalities of managing risks going forward. Most firms have been caught off guard because they never discuss risk as part of their business strategies.

- The writer is a businessman

Covid 19 Time Series


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