NEW YORK, United States of America, August 21, 2020/ — INTRODUCTION
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all countries is unprecedented with more than 14.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including more than 607,000 associated deaths, reported as of 21 July 20203 . Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic is far more than a health crisis. It has disrupted lives, livelihoods, communities and businesses worldwide, affecting societies and economies at their core and potentially rolling back the socio-economic progress achieved towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The pandemic has unleashed a health and economic crisis unprecedented in scope and magnitude; it has also exposed and magnified existing socio-economic inequalities. Poor and marginalized communities are less equipped to cope with the pandemic due to lack of access to information and public services, and even vital resources, such as water and soap or adequate housing. Women, who already had fewer jobs than men, as well as less pay across the world, have been disproportionately impacted by the economic crises brought on by COVID-19.
Lockdowns and the closing of national borders enforced by governments in attempt to stem the spread of the virus have paralyzed economic activities across the board, laying off millions of workers worldwide. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) forecasts that both developed and developing countries on average will record negative growth rates, wiping out nearly all output gains of the previous four years4 . Consequently, global trade is projected to decline between 13 – 32 per cent in 20205 , according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), impacting every country in an increasingly integrated global economy. At the same time, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) predicts a USD 2 trillion cost to the global economy, a 40 per cent drop in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), with a USD 220 billion hit to developing countries (excluding China) and a slowdown to an annual growth rate of under 2.5 per cent6 . In Africa, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has forecasted a reduction in GDP growth by 1.4 per cent (from 3.2 per cent to about 1.8 per cent)7 , while the UN Economic Commission for West Asia (UNESCWA) forecasts that the Arab region would lose over USD 42 billion in 2020, due to drop in oil prices8 .
In Egypt, the first COVID-19 confirmed case was reported on 15 February 2020, and as of 21 July 2020, there were more than 89,000 confirmed cases9 . Since then, the Government of Egypt has issued several public health measures and programmes, including on awareness raising, to curb the spread of the virus. Concurrently, the Government has been rolling-out a series of fiscal stimulus policy measures, including tax breaks and delayed payment of taxes targeting several sectors, to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. Monetary policy response actions were also taken by the Central Bank of Egypt including relaxing the credit repayment deadlines for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through the local banks.
Furthermore, several measures to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups have been announced, including the expansion of the Takaful and Karama social safety net programme, in addition to the formation of an inter-ministerial committee for the irregular workers affected by the economic repercussions of the pandemic and the establishment of a workers’ emergency benefits fund. At the same time, to mitigate impact of schools’ closure, the Government has deployed the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB), an online platform that provides access to digitized curricula to students. The Government has also been working closely with telecom companies to ensure reduced communication charges when students access the EKB.