As Sri Lanka continues to battle coronavirus (COVID-19), the United Nations (UN) says emergency fiscal support will help the country cope with the added burden on the healthcare system due to extra patients and testing.
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana told Dailymirror measures which need to be taken by the Government to respond to COVID-19 would place more stress on debt in the country, similarly to many other countries in the region.
“Given the stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka, the priority now is still containing further spread of the disease to save lives and minimise potential economic damage. For this, well-targeted emergency fiscal support is required to cope with the added burden on the healthcare system due to extra patients and testing. Most affected countries in the region are already providing fiscal subsidies for medical testing and treatment of the virus as well as fiscal support for emergency public interventions to increase hospital capacity and medical supplies. Furthermore, fiscal measures are required to support jobs and living standards. There needs to be fiscal support for employers to retain jobs. These can be through targeted tax exemptions and fiscal subsidies to SMEs – the most affected business sector – and the informal sector. There also needs to be direct support for employees and households to guarantee minimum living standards. These can be through emergency measures to extend medical and employment insurance to those not sufficiently covered or by providing direct cash transfers for consumption smoothening,” she said.
She urged the international community to offer an immediate fiscal assistance package to countries like Sri Lanka to help them manage outstanding foreign debt.