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Thinking ahead: For a sustainable recovery from COVID-19


Across the World Bank Group, efforts are underway to help governments respond to the crisis triggered by COVID-19. The priority today is to support overwhelmed health systems and the millions of workers and business owners who are being hit hard. Thinking ahead, however, the response also offers a significant opportunity to build a more resilient and sustainable future.

A First Phase: Lessons from the Front Lines of Disaster Response  The initial focus must be on the front lines: supporting doctors and nurses, as well as ensuring that homes and hospitals have power and water, waste is properly disposed, and food is available and affordable. Attention must also focus on the households hit by drastically reduced incomes, especially those with exposed occupations (e.g., tourism or restaurants) or unstable incomes (e.g., independent workers), as well as the poorest households with little savings.

Right now, the goal cannot be to stimulate demand and increase economic activity before the virus is under control. Instead, we need redistributive actions to smooth the shock. 

To do so, governments can and do rely on existing social protection systems. “Adaptive safety nets” that use existing social protection schemes and can quickly expand by increasing the number of beneficiaries and the sums transferred to them, are an efficient way to help people after a major shock. This approach was effective in Fiji after Hurricane Winston and in Kenya and Ethiopia during droughts and can be applied now. 

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