The First Virtual meeting of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) on COVID 19 outbreak was held today. Members from Pakistan who participated in the meeting included Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Muhammad Ali Khan Saif and Senator Zeeshan Khanzada.
The meeting was co-hosted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the Asian Parliamentary Assembly. It focussed on best practices to suppress the pandemic and restart the economy of the region in a sustainable and inclusive manner. Speakers included members from 42 countries and focussed on the emerging challenges; especially in terms of primary healthcare including mental health and a sustainable economy.
General Statements of implications and precautionary measures of COVID 19 and modality of future virtual meetings were delivered. A draft declaration was issued.
Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, head of Pakistan delegation was of the view that meetings such as these ensure that Parliamentarians remain active and uphold their posts as representatives of the people. In pursuit of this goal, she said that Pakistan upholds the initiatives of the APA President and Secretary General APA to restart the activities in view of the new reality faced by the world to share best practices.
She added that this pandemic is an unprecedented challenge in which every aspect of human life has been affected. Estimates suggest that global economic losses have run close to 9 trillion dollars. In Pakistan, she added, that COVID 19 has severely hit key sectors of the economy, estimates show that during fiscal year 2020 growth remained negative 24 percent. While for fiscal year 2021 growth is projected to be 2.1 percent depending on how the pandemic unfolds. To reduce the severity of the pandemic, she said, Pakistan has responded with an emergency stimulus package of 1.42 trillion, with additional spending on healthcare, cash transfers and utility support for households and businesses. She further stated that to normalize life in the long run Pakistan has adopted the Smart Lockdown strategy that allows many businesses to cushion the economic impact and support vulnerable segments and sectors in the country. She said that in the health sectors it is suggested that the government review existing trade regulations, both tariff and non-tariff to ensure timely access to affordable and trust worthy medical help. Likewise for healthcare workers, she stressed, all necessary resources and equipment should be ensured to minimize operational risks. She added that for virtual meetings of APA, we understand that all Parliaments of the world are trying to adapt to this new situation and that there is no single successful model to replicate. Some Parliaments are facing capacity issues while others are having procedural and administrative problems. As far as the APA is concerned, she said, that we support the idea which might help in the resumption of normal activities. However, operational issues must be considered as APA has 44 members Parliament and working on such a scale will require review of the rules of procedure of the APA to adapt to virtual meetings. Moreover, she said that we can also look into the limiting of physical meetings on matters of urgent concern. We hope that with cooperation we will be able to convert this challenge into an opportunity and will continue the exchange of best practices and lessons to ensure the smooth functioning of APA.