Kyrgyz government told to act to prevent worst impacts of pandemic on vulnerable

13 Aug 20

Kyrgyzstan should “aggressively” strengthen its health, social protection and employment systems if it is to meet the development challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, a report has urged.

 

The study, carried out by the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the Economic Policy Research Institute in the Kyrgyz ministry of economy, also said the government should improve transparency in its crisis response.

Failing to take the recommendations into account could prove disastrous for the many vulnerable people in the country, whose existence has been made precarious by the pandemic, the report said.

“The pandemic is a development crisis. It has fundamentally changed the economic structure and outlook for the Kyrgyz people and increased the number of vulnerable,” said the UNDP representative in Kyrgyzstan Louise Chamberlain.

The report has projected a 10% decline in GDP this year, a 25% fall in remittances, which many people rely on, and increases in poverty.

Substantial losses in major economic sectors such as tourism, trade, consumer services and construction are expected, and many workers work informally so are not covered by any form of social protection.

Unemployment could jump from about 6% in 2018 (the latest figure given in the report) to 13.6% at some point in 2020 – or 21% in a worst-case scenario – and the report described a “very small” unemployment benefit programme where officially registered people are given less than $4 a month.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has introduced a small stipend for the unemployed, and has involved many of them in seasonal and temporary jobs, largely in the agricultural sector, as well as providing free retraining programmes.

But in a country where about 20% of the population lived in poverty in 2019, large-scale increases in joblessness are likely to hit families hard, the report warned.

The paper recommended increasing investment in health services for vulnerable communities, committing more financial support for small businesses and expanding social assistance schemes to cover new groups such as informal workers.

Minister of economy Sanjar Mukanbetov said he hopes the report findings will be taken into account.

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