Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam declared that over 22,000 people in Maldives lost their employment as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He made the statement in his remarks during the fourth South Asia Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in conjunction with the Maldivian government, held virtually from December 2-3.
Briefing the participants on the devastating repercussions of the pandemic on the island nation's economy such as the significant loss of jobs, he called on all South Asian countries to work together and foster sustainable recovery in order to "achieve the SDGs through meaningful partnerships and collaboration in addressing the challenges faced by countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic".
Speaking at the forum, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana urged to strengthen social protection and financing of economic recovery through "innovative financing strategies, accelerating digital transformation and greening recovery through the use of clean technology".
In addition, SAARC Secretary-General Esala Ruwan Weerakoon shed light on cooperation initiatives such as the SAARC Emergency Fund, mobilised to mitigate the pandemic's impact. He called on all member states to put SDGs at the centre of their policy making and recovery planning.
Over 450 participants from governments, think-tanks, and civil society organisations from eight South Asian countries took part in the forum, which was preceded by the South Asia People’s Forum on SDGs.
During the event, the status of SDG achievements and actions taken by member states towards sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic were reviewed. They will be presented at the second Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2021.
The restrictions on local and global travel and tourism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had severe repercussions on the Maldivian economy, with many losing their jobs and local companies struggling to stay afloat.
In mid-April, the World Bank estimated that Maldives will be the worst-hit country in the South Asian region, in the ensuing economic regression caused by the pandemic.
The Maldivian government had introduced an 'Income Support Allowance' scheme to provide a temporary monthly allowance of up to MVR 5,000, to individuals that lost their employment or income as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, in a bid to counteract the financial impact of COVID-19, the Maldives government introduced an economic relief fund with MVR 2.5 billion intended to prevent the closing down of local businesses and the loss of jobs.