23 April 2020 | SOCIAL distancing, effort taken by governments all over the world, has been proven effective to limit the Coronavirus transmission. Yet, the action has struck the economy, initially on local level and finally to the national level. Responding to this, UCLG ASPAC connected city leaders and international development organisations in a discussion aiming at mitigating the economy impacts of COVID-19 in the Asia-Pacific region. Representatives of Jambi City, Iriga City, Xi’an City, UNDP, UN ENSCAP, and Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) enriched the discussion, with the attendance of Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary General of UCLG ASPAC and Mr. Marcelino R. Pandin, Policy Advisor of UCLG ASPAC.
Mr. Dave Cull, UCLG ASPAC Co-President and representing the LGNZ, shared his views that COVID-19 (as climate change) is the result of human destructive way of living. Thus, he believes that returning to business as usual is not a wise solution. Instead, he put the current situation as an opportunity to recreate the economy in a healthier way. In regards to the role of local governments, he suggested local leaders to provide leadership and support to run the economy in less destructive ways. He believes new innovation and changes will be discovered as we have experienced the enormous losses.
Mr. Maulana, the Vice Mayor of Jambi City, shared that the city has focused budget allocation on health management (transmission prevention) and mitigation of economic impact on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In regards to this, the city has applied physical distancing policy, disinfected public spaces, provided hand sanitizers, rented housing for medical personnel, and procurement of rapid test. In addition, the city of Jambi has promoted the online shopping system for SMEs to thrive during this pandemic.
Mayor Madelaine Yorobe Alfelor of Iriga City also shared that her city adopts the idea of vegetable on wheel to distribute food supply to many parts of the city. Satellite market is also created in every village so people will not need to travel to city centre and supermarkets. Additionally, the city also applies online selling approach for basic food commodities. Representative of Xi’an City also shared that the city has applied the tax and fee reduction policy.
Joining this virtual discussion were representatives of UNDP (Bangkok, Thailand). Mr. Renaud Meyer shared that as the seriousness of the crisis varies greatly within a country, there should be tailored response in each region according to its needs. He put emphasis on the important relationship of environment and human activity to have a more sustainability way of living. Prepare – Response – Recover is approach suggested by UNDP and applied in Phuket (assessment of socio-economic impact). Mr. Patrick Duong also made his point that local government alone is not enough. The efforts require the whole society and private sectors to get together and build social solidarity. In the discussion, he promoted Social Innovation Platforms with four core dimensions, including 1) capacity building of the capacity of local governments and their ecosystem, 2) co-creation and prototyping interventions, 3) portfolio approach, and 4) transformation capital and digitalisation.
Mr. Omar Siddique, representing UN ESCAP (Bangkok), shared recommendations from ESCAP. Actions to be taken immediately include increase of fiscal spending to support labour and relieve pressure on households, remove tariff barriers, monetary easing to support financial liquidity, and rationing health supply. For long-term, actions include providing support to people and climate, universal health coverage, regional cooperation, and debt relief.
Moderating this virtual discussion, Mr. Marcelino Pandin, Policy Adviser of UCLG ASPAC, mentioned that city initiatives such as online shopping and tele-medicine are promising. He also mentioned that to respond to any crisis in the future, social solidarity is the key.
Brief Question and Answer session was also conducted. One important discussion includes the achievement of SDGs and the economy slow down due to this pandemic. Mr. Omar Siddique suggested the localisation of target and indicators and to find what works in local situation. He also suggested to see the goals and targets in a broader context.