President Dr Arif Alvi has said that COVID-19 pandemic is an enormous challenge that also opened up new vistas of opportunities before the world to tackle the issues of sustainable development.
He was addressing the 23rd Sustainable Development Conference titled: Sustainable Development in the Times of COVID-19, organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday.
The President said that the pandemic has affected the societies, particularly the poor, across the world, which hindered progress of nations. He urged the world to uplift the poor by providing them better healthcare, quality education and all the basic necessities of life.
Highlighting the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic, President Alvi said that Pakistan has done tremendous work in tackling the disease by providing help to almost half of the population through Ehsaas programme. The Ehsaas cash transfer program has worked wonders to protect the poor, and also was acknowledged by every government in the world.
He said that poverty alleviation and development are linked to education. COVID-19 increases the opportunities rather than having bricks and mortar of schools and universities; it has provided the opportunity to reach out to people in a least expensive manner.
“As far as health efforts are concerned, prevention is the key to safety for the countries like Pakistan, which cannot afford curative approach and I believe that we have established structures of communication by which we can reach out to the people at grass roots level through different modes,” Dr Alvi said.
Of economic management amidst COVID-19, the President Alvi said Pakistan has managed its economy at the macroeconomic front, where balance of payment got better, imports got reduced and exports went up. At the same time, the prime minister has announced the construction package, which will help enhance employment opportunities, he added.
The COVID-19 has also triggered the digital transformation in a year, which may have taken a decade, he said, adding that societies which make progress in the world are those which are inclusive and ensure that education and health care facilities are accessible to the entire population. “We need to ensure that the development and progress is sustainable ecologically and environmentally.”
In his welcome note, SDPI Executive Director Abid Qaiyum Suleri thanked the President for patronizing thinking community in general, and SDPI’s annual conference in particular. “We have the fond memories of holding the inaugural session of our 22nd annual conference at the Presidency under your worthy guidance. This year too, your esteemed office had very kindly accepted our request to hold the inaugural session of 23rd SDC in the presidency but due to increase in COVID-19 cases, we had to opt for a virtual mode.
Discussing sustainable development in the times of COVID19 this year, Dr Suleri said, we are mindful of the fact how this pandemic has disturbed global agenda of achieving SDGs by 2030. He said the pandemic has incurred loss of precious lives and livelihoods across the world, forcing millions of students to stay away from their classrooms, and depriving non COVID patients from health care.