As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the region, hemisphere business leaders grouped in the Americas Business Dialogue (ABD) are working in coordination to bring private sector resources and capabilities to governments to tackle the health and economic emergency.
Among the responses put forth by ABD – an initiative led by the private sector and facilitated by the Inter-American Development Bank – is the drafting of a document containing a series of crucial public policy recommendations that the private sector coalesced around and was submitted to the region’s governments.
On the one hand, these proposals seek to ensure that the private sector can continue to efficiently supply the goods and services that are critical to face this crisis, including medical devices, medicines, food, energy, financial services, and access to work-related digital tools.
On the other hand, to ease the burden of the pandemic’s economic impact, including providing support for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and protecting jobs, thus laying the groundwork for a strong economic recovery.
The recommendations were agreed on by the more than 300 companies and private-sector associations from the Americas that make up ABD, drawing on the experiences and the challenges they face in the region’s markets. The ideas and proposals were discussed in depth during a virtual meeting on March 31st, in which over 200 members of the business community took part.
The measures, listed in Policy Recommendations on Addressing the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic and Mitigating its Impacts, are divided into two groups. The first seeks to respond to the pandemic by ensuring businesses continuity and preserving vital supply chains. To achieve this, ABD proposes that governments:
- Clearly and comprehensively define essential infrastructure, industries, goods, services, and workers to tackle COVID-19. These definitions include engaging in open, transparent, and ongoing consultations with industry to develop such guidance and attempting regional harmonization to minimize disruption to supply chains.
- Engage in a coordinated and coherent international response to the pandemic. This response should address the current public health crisis and preserve trust in the trade and investment system through multilateral, regional, and multisector mechanisms.
- Cooperate with each other, and with the industry, to protect the global supply chain of essential products and medical supplies for tackling COVID-19, and abstain from implementing export restrictions.
- Avoid excessive stockpiling of medicines and medical devices, as this could lead to critical worldwide shortages.
- Work to ensure that international trade and investment flows continue uninterrupted and protect global and regional supply chains critical for the continued delivery of essential goods and services. Among these measures, governments should reduce or eliminate tariffs and remove non-tariff barriers affecting imports of essential tools to fight the pandemic. They should also implement trade facilitation measures to reduce the cost of moving these products across borders and promote e-commerce.
- Implement Good Regulatory Practices (GRPs) and strengthen regulatory cooperation to facilitate trade in essential goods. Among other measures, governments should eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements and adopt international standards.
- Accelerate their digital transformation to ensure that public administration may continue and enable remote work and business operations by the removing reliance on paper and promoting the use of digital technologies for all transactions and procedures. They should also adopt effective measures regarding cybersecurity and privacy and ensure free cross-border data flows.
- Collaborate with the private sector in pursuit of effective vaccination and treatment alternatives against COVID-19.
- Explore measures to ensure that the energy sector is not affected by payment deferrals and that liquidity problems do not impact business continuity when adopting measures to protect the most vulnerable sectors and safeguard their access to basic public services.
To mitigate economic impacts and foster a robust and fast recovery, ABD recommends that governments:
- Increase health investments as a strategy for economic growth and recovery.
- Implement short- and medium-term fiscal policy measures to support economic activity, including by deploying economic stimulus and considering deferrals in tax filings and tax payments.
- Strive to ensure that financial markets remain open and that capital keeps flowing to allow businesses to maintain liquidity.
- Help protect jobs by postponing or subsidizing social security contributions during the crisis and modernizing labor legislation and social insurance systems.
- Proactively protect MSMEs that may face liquidity issues resulting from meager revenues and consider adopting different types of financing and guarantee programs along with export promotion and initiatives to cut down on red tape.
- Maintain the highest standards of ethics, transparency, and integrity during and after the pandemic.
- Prioritize funding for education and scientific research to help accelerate scientific-based findings and bring solutions to address the current health crisis and others that may arise in the future.
The ABD was created in 2014 to promote a public-private dialogue on the priorities, challenges, and opportunities around economic growth and development in the Americas. It is also the mechanism through which the private sector participates in the Summit of the Americas.
The ABD is committed to working with governments and the IDB to implement these and other policies and initiatives to help overcome the challenges that the COVID-19 emergency poses to all countries in the Americas.
As the facilitator of the initiative, the IDB has lent its support to the preparation and dissemination of the document with the firm conviction that the COVID-19 crisis has made joint efforts between governments and the private sector in the Americas more essential than ever.
The IDB will continue to support activities that make it possible to bring private-sector resources and knowledge closer to our governments through ABD. It will also enable the implementation of these recommendations and foster collaboration to overcome this crisis and strengthen public-private cooperation as we tackle the structural challenges faced by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The recommendation document is available here.