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Tackling Coronavirus: What Pakistan Can Learn From China

Maryam Shabbir and Khansa Naeem write about China’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak and what Pakistan can learn from it. 

Coronavirus, namely COVID-19 has activated the global alarm by killing more than 2859 people and infecting more than 83708 people in 50 countries. The deadly virus is supposed to afflict the 60% of the world population in case of prolongation.

Globally, both infected and uninfected countries have taken adaptive actions against this epidemic such as enhancing public awareness regrading symptoms and preventative actions, enforcing travel bans and isolating the affected people. But despite adopting all firm actions, the virus continues to spread.

Pakistan is closely interconnected with China and many other affected regional countries through travel and trade which can facilitate the transmission of virus making country vulnerable. Recently, Pakistan’s Health officials have confirmed two cases, linking the origination of 1 case with Iran. In the latest press conference, Sindh CM Syed Murad Ali Shah has confirmed that the infected patient is among those 1500 provincial citizens, who recently returned after pilgrimage from Iran. He further ensured the implementation of proper channel to deal with novel coronavirus and also calls the federal government on board, who has already created the National Action Plan COVID-19. But in-spite of officials’ assurance, the epidemic’s deadly history of past two month has increased public panic and raised the question on government ability to cope with this gigantic challenge.

The virus originated from Wuhan province of China and in the blink of eye it jolted the country both physically and economically with the tragic human loss and proved wreaking havoc for China’s economy in multidimensional ways. Its effect has been felt probably on all sectors of the country and is predicted to shrink GDP by 1 percent in FY2020.  For instance, according to Trading Economics, the epidemic has disrupted the business and supply chains, surged the food inflation by 5.4% in the month of January.

The China Economic Monitor revealed that the real estate market is also collapsed with plunged of 90 percent sales of new apartments and staggering drop of 91 percent of existing homes. According to New York Times, it is estimated that more than 45 percent of the country’s young population have incarcerated them due to which aggregate consumer demand has fallen down and turned the boom time of retailers during China’s lunar new year into damp squib. As the consumer demand is considered one of the intensified economic lubricants for growth, it seems that the present outbreak would have a stronger economic impact.

In the past, SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak had significantly dropped the country’s GDP growth and financial asset valuation. But this time, say it will have severer impact on a major part of the country and population. For the time being, the whole districts, cities and towns have been shut down which has put the brunt on transportation sector of the country, particularly affecting the civil aviation. The statistics of US Energy Information Administration depicted that only in the last month of January, 12,000 flights from the Chinese mainland have been cancelled out. The New York Times reported that at ground transportation level, the figures showed that traffic dropped by 73 percent.

China is also one of the leading manufacturing countries, and in spite of gradual structural transformation toward service based economy, the present apnea is being deeply felt on manufacturing sector. Many multinational and national companies such as Panasonic, Apple, Volkswagen, Foxconn and Toyota have stopped their operational units across the country which diminished the manufacturing yield.

Consumption industry and manufacturing sectors have immensely affected the transportation sector and import of country’s crude oil. China, on an average, has consumption of 14 million barrel per day (bpd) of crude oil but due to declining consumer demand, manufacturing production and transport services has observed drop of 25 percent approximately which decreases the crude oil import by approximately 3 million bpd.

As the service sector holds major share in GDP of the country due to disruption in retail, hotels, transport and tourism, the manufacturing sector is also getting affected. It raised the concern of restraining the international trade and international movement of people to and from china. In order to overwhelm eruption, the government of China is on its proactive nationwide struggle to run the economy in its usual way with its urging efforts to commence and salvage its factories and farms.

According to China’s Ministry of Finance, the country has allocated 11.54 billion USD for control and prevention of the epidemic. It has also mobilized 20 thousand medical staff based on 180 medical teams in Wuhan and Hubei.

According to Global Times, China military also played its role actively by allocating 2.6 thousand medical personnel. Banking sector also exceeded their credit loans by 50.1 Billion USD for relief of victims and for resuming work in firms. The Official have already realised that economic recovery is sensitize to their policy so to curtail potential economic loss the People’s Bank of China has decreased the interest rates and injected 173 billion USD for ensuring plenteous liquidity support to financial outbreak and its economic impacts. According to Xinhua, more than 27000 Chinese have already recovered from the outbreak. Many Chinese economists estimated that economic impact of the outbreak is temporary and can only be visible for the first or second quarter, due to resources utilization on the outbreak. But soon, the economy will preserve it momentum, many of them believed that like SARs it will open the ways to real meaning of globalization.

As Chinese ambassador ‘Mr. Yao Jing’ during his recent interview with Pakistan’s think-thank ‘SDPI’ said: “I can’t say when we can, but we believe that all the Chinese, our resources, our expertise, all the institutions are focused on understanding and curing this virus including international efforts, WHO as a leading organization.”

The present situation of China from worry to glory has raised many lessons for international community particularly for Pakistan, who has just been exposed to the virus. With all its official efforts, Pakistan is still determined to tackle the problem, but is still in a state of fear. But many stakeholders in the country are hopeful that we will defeat the disease by following China’s example.

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