A municipal worker disinfect a warehouse with hospital material, to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cascais, Portugal March 27, 2020.
Businesses and its leaders need to be in the vanguard in lessening the pain of the less lucky in a post-COVID-19 world. Image Credit: Reuters

The COVID-19 is engulfing livelihoods and not just on people’s health, especially among the poor. Their financial vulnerability is a matter of concern and their safeguard, in the midst of this crises, is Herculean.

They need speedy financial assistance free of the usual bottlenecks. The various stimulus packages are only a drop. This is an economic pandemic too, and due to its magnitude, it needs concerted action.

For the poor, this is even more fatal than their health predicament. Their mental “immunity” to withstand the impact of COVID-19 is much stronger than their ability to face its financial fallout, as their primary income sources have dried up amid the lockdown.

Spare a thought

Globally, over one billion people live on daily earnings. The significant slowdown has its consequences for all, but the poorer are in utter survival mode. Inequality data reports have indicated that adults with less than $10,000 make up 56.6 per cent of the world’s population, but these hold less than 2 per cent of global wealth.

The conditions are much worse for those who live in extreme poverty. The World Bank’s International Poverty Line was revised in 2015. Since then, a person is considered to be in extreme poverty if they live on less than $1.90 a day.

This poverty measurement is based on the monetary value of a person’s consumption. Income measures, on the other hand, are only used for countries in which reliable consumption measures are not available.

There are more than 230 million people living in urban areas within this income range, and these lockdowns are providing to be a great hardship to them. Just in the last one month, the world economy has shrunk by 5 per cent.

While governments are doing the best they can, and all the other global institutions — the UN, WHO, World Bank, IMF and central banks — are indeed delving at length to find the solution, it is time for others too to join in to contribute. This requires assertive actions from all businesses, civil society, and non-government organisations (NGOs). Corporates need to move away from their profit syndrome to fundamental sustainability. Businesses must not do this as an act of charity but to help build multiple avenues by creating employment opportunities and saving jobs.

No recourse

If there was ever the most critical need for Corporate Social Responsibility, it is today. This is a May Day call for companies to open their CSR funds. Compassion needs to play a key factor when resorting to any cost cuts with lower salaried staff According to the Global Wealth Report, the World’s richest 1 per cent, those with more than $1 million, own 44 per cent of the world’s wealth. This data strongly suggests that onus is on the rich and super-rich, in particular, to share their wealth with most deserving.

There is a compelling case for them to share — why should governments bear this burden alone. I can see the beginning by Azeem Premji in India, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett with their acts of donating significant portions of their wealth. The rest of civil society must also share this burden. This social responsibility is binding on all, and can be achieved through a series of measures such as efficiency, innovation, and adopting minimalism.

We should build collaborative social alliances to influence our behavioural aspects. It is time for humanity to take a front seat in this crisis.

- Tariq Chauhan is Group CEO at EFS Facilities Services Group.