LAHORE: Organised retail sector has proposed a public-private partnership for the mass vaccination program to fast-track the normalisation of the economy and vaccination to the public and create awareness.
The government has been facing challenge in vaccinating the public as limited citizen of above age 60 and above registered themselves and got vaccinated against the total population.
The proposal is floated by the Chainstore Association of Pakistan (CAP), representative body of the organised retail sector of country through letters written to the Federal Minister for Planning and Chief of National Command and Operation Center Asad Umar, and Minister for National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan.
The organised retail sector comprises over 20,000 outlets and major shopping malls employing 1,000,000 people directly and indirectly. The sector is also closing working with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for the last two years for documentations of the retail sector.
Tairq Mehboob, Chairman CAP, proposed the federal government and private businesses could work together on a mass vaccination program on a public-private partnership model to fast-track the normalisation of the economy.
“In addition to governmental initiatives to vaccinate the general public especially the most vulnerable segments, the private sector can perform a key supporting role in ensure mass vaccinations of its workforce, especially customer-facing workers, and the remaining segments of the population,” Mehboob said.
The financial cost of mass vaccination of the vast majority of the adult population as high as it may be much lower than the adverse impact on the economy.
According to the World Bank recent report titled “South Asia Vaccinates”, the cumulative future benefits of vaccination as a share of current year GDP is 2.2 percent to 6.7 percent for Pakistan, which translates into a possible gain of $14.61 billion as compared to vaccination cost of up to $2.3 billion.
Talking to The News, Mehboob, quoting the recent survey by Gallup Pakistan, said since 49 percent of adults have opted out of getting vaccinated for COVID-19, therefore, aside from securing vaccine doses and supply-chain readiness, the willingness of the public to get vaccinated might remain a challenge across the country.
“However, the private businesses can assist the public sector through various initiatives to build confidence in the vaccine, through the trusted relationship between employers and employees as well as brands and customers as in the other Asian countries such as Indonesia,” he said.
“Once mass vaccinations of the national workforce are underway e.g. commercial banks, retail businesses, etc. the concept of safe businesses’ can be introduced such businesses should also be allowed to operate without restrictions as is the case in Turkey.”
Such an initiative was likely to encourage all other businesses to follow the lead and boost public sentiment towards vaccinations, Mehboob added.
Further, the CAP Chairman said the reduction of operating hours earlier than 10pm and two-day closure resulted in increased congestion during shorter operating hours and remaining days which increased health risks for customers and employees.
“At the same time, such reduced operating hours have cut revenues to half of normal which is not sufficient to sustain businesses and the workforce. Longer hours till at least 10PM for seven days a week allows customer traffic to be spread out and commercial activities to generate business in this peak shopping period,” he said. The CAP chief suggested that the government should consult with the official representatives of each business sector to take any measure to mitigate the current and future waves of Covid-19 -related to commercial activities.
“In this case, the CAP requests to be consulted so that a joint strategy can be devised and ownership created on the ground in order to tackle the impending economic and health risks,” he said.
The organised retail sector which comprises retail chains and shopping malls have proven to be the most effective at ensuring the compliance of health and safety SOPs since reopening last year.
For the safety of customers and employees, the CAP launched the #Masks4AllPakistan initiative in April 2020 and distributed five million face-masks to the general public.
“We would be grateful for an opportunity to urgently assist in creation of a joint strategy which will supplement the successful efforts of the federal government to keep the wheel of the economy turning whilst safeguarding health and livelihoods of the general population,” Mehboob Chairman stated.
In current circumstances, both export and domestic commerce has been struggling for recovery in the months prior to the onset of the Third Wave.
The spearhead of this domestic recovery has been the retail trade with over 50 allied sectors and industries comprising its supply chain.
After the inevitable impact of the first lockdown and subsequent ‘smart’ lockdowns, it is imperative to continue to avoid mass unemployment and closures by finding a sustainable solution amidst the debilitating Covid-I9 waves.