Protect poor against wrath of Coranavirus

Wednesday February 10 2021

While the government is aggressively providing food aid and emergency supply to the most vulnerable, some of them say the support is not sustainable. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


The prolonged impact of the pandemic is hurting everyone. But our unequal society means some will be more affected than others.

Early last week, the government extended the lockdown for another week, as efforts to contain the strain reached the climax.

In the past two weeks, the virus appears to have been contained with infections dropping to approximately 3 percent as of Wednesday.

The government is taking no chances, as the Cabinet decided to extend the lockdown to ensure that by the time the lockdown is lifted, the numbers have drastically fallen.

Yet, the extended lockdown means many who live hand to mouth will continue to struggle to find sources of livelihoods. They will also struggle to provide basic needs for their families. While the government is extended food relief to vulnerable families, more measures are needed to help these families find a source of income.

Experts are cautioning that the pandemic is likely to worsen the gap between the rich and the poor.


This is partly because the rich tend to have diverse sources of income and may have continued to work remotely during pandemic. To address this gap, the government has to do more to help the most vulnerable in particular ensuring that they get back to work. This will mean government spending more money so that even the private sector can resume hiring to complete government efforts.

Research needs to be done to understand the realities of the poor and vulnerable, and give the general public information about the impact of the pandemic.

Without data driven interventions, the effectiveness of government assistance will be limited.

Economic experts have observed that despite Rwanda having social protection programmes in place, they should be adjusted to accommodate the immediate need of repairing the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable who lost everything due to the pandemic.

There are many businesses and private service providers whose government still owes payment that dates to 2019 and 2020, all these should be paid, such that there is more money injected into the economy.

There is also an urgent need for the government to relook into its existing taxation regimes and local government financial collections, to adjust these policies with a goal of easing doing business for local small business operators, but also easing the burden of monthly collections which increase financial pressure on fragile households.

Despite growth of the service sector over the years, the pandemic has wiped out many jobs in the service sector as hotels, restaurants and bars that use casual labour have remained closed. Beyond supporting domestic tourism, more efforts are needed to ensure these small businesses do not die.

Perhaps, more importantly, the government as the largest employer and spender in the economy, should spend deliberately with the sole objective of reviving the economy and protecting the most vulnerable from falling back into extreme poverty