Androulla Kaminara: Pakistan manage unprecedented Covid 19 challenge very well

EU Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara Sunday said the European Union fully backed Pakistan’s efforts to overcome the challenge of socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and build back better for a more sustainable future.

Androulla Kaminara: Pakistan manage unprecedented Covid 19 challenge very well

“The COVID-19 has shaken the world unexpectedly and we will continue to feel the socioeconomic consequences of the virus for quite a long-time. Showing solidarity with each other during the trying times is the responsibility of all of us,” she said in an exclusive interview with this agency.

She said it was an unprecedented challenge, but Pakistan had so far managed the crisis very well. “The data from the WHO (World Health Organization), which I have followed closely over the past few months, suggests that COVID-19 cases and deaths are on a steep decline in Pakistan.

At the peak of the daily infections in mid-June, there were over 6,000 new infections per day and for most of August, this has been reduced to about 500 new infections or lower per day. It was heartening that the Pakistan government’s measures such as smart lockdowns as well as testing and tracing had helped slow down the spread of virus considerably,” Androulla Kaminara remarked.

The government, she said, had taken a number of positive initiatives to stimulate the economy during the difficult challenge time and also to help those segments of the population, which had been particularly affected by the pandemic.

One example was the expansion of the Ehsaas Programme to cover approximately 23 million households, she added. To a query about the EU-supported projects in Pakistan, Ambassador Kaminara said Pakistan was one of the EUs major development partners, with one of the largest programmes of aid in Asia. For 2014-2020 period, she said, the grants provided to Pakistan amounted to over 600 million.

About investment conditions in Pakistan, particularly for foreigners, Ambassador Kaminara said the government had managed the recent economic challenge quite well, besides introducing policies to encourage economic activities in the county. Pakistan had moved 39 spots ahead to 108th (out of 190) on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index in the past two years.

Also, it was ranked as the 6th global reformer and the first in the region to introduce such business friendly policies. “I believe such policies would greatly support Pakistan’s business image abroad to attract further investment in key areas of its economy. However, reform efforts need to be maintained and enhanced in this fast moving global competitive environment. To a question about the role of youth in national development, she said, Pakistan is lucky to be blessed with a youthful population, which makes up 60% of the total (population).

Pakistan, she said, would also greatly benefit from an orientation towards the Information Technology sector and digitalization, which were considered to be central to new jobs creation and economic growth. As regards Pakistan’s tourism sector, she said, “I have travelled to many places, and I must admit that Islamabad is one of most scenic and peaceful capitals. Very few cities, let alone capitals can boast to have such beautiful hills and nature in the city itself.”

She said Pakistan was an amazing region for tourism as it offered so much diversity in terms of weather, landscape, biodiversity and a rich cultural heritage, with hospitable and welcoming people. “But many of the scenic parts of the country still remain unexplored and that is where the potential lies. From the stunning northern part of Pakistan with the vast Karakoram mountain range to the coast in the south, there is a huge opportunity with the right policies and improvement in access to these areas.”

Sharing her travel experience in Pakistan, she said, I have been lucky enough to visit some stunning parts of Balochistan, Sindh, KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Punjab but my travels were stopped over the last five months due to COVID-19. She expressed the hope that as the COVID situation improved, she would have more opportunities to see more of the beauty that Pakistan was blessed with and to interact with as many different people from its cultural diversity.

Originally published by The News