Yesterday, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) announced its plans to conduct a ‘Special Survey for Evaluating Impact of Covid-19 on Wellbeing of People’. This is a fantastic development, even if rather late.
The need for Covid impact surveys has been flagged in this section over the last few months, and it was a matter of time before international donors nudged the PBS into action in line with their greater appreciation to boost national statistics organisations as a part of their Covid management programmes. (Read BR Research’s ‘Covid-economy: Big Data should be Pakistan’s New Deal’ 16 Apr 2020; ‘Timely data in Covid times’, 19 Aug 2020; ‘National Statistics’, 27 Aug 2020)
According to the questionnaire shared by the PBS, a host of aspects are going to be surveyed. From the frequency of consumption of health care goods & services to adoption of Covid mitigation practices, and from food security, job loss and impact on incomes to coping strategies to deal with Covid-related shock on economy and social protection assistance from various private and public sectors (see table for broad scope of the survey). The PBS informs that the questionnaire was developed in close coordination with relevant stakeholders like the FAO, World Bank, UNDP, WHO, and the P-Block.
This is all hunky dory. However, given Pakistan’s struggle with understanding Covid-19’s impact on small and medium enterprises, a simultaneous survey ought to be conducted to get a better handle on the SME situation. As argued earlier in this space, Covid-19’s impact on rural and urban SMEs across the provinces isn’t well understood as different surveys report different findings. And if SME is indeed the backbone of economy and what not, then it warrants attention. (See ‘Assessing Covid’s impact on SMEs’, 10 June 2020)
To this end, the PBS would do well to collaborate with the business community, SMEDA as well as provincial departments of industries, livestock and fisheries, investment and planning, for the purpose of survey design and questionnaire. At the same time, the PBS must speed up on its plans to create a responsive National Statistics System for disaster situations in close coordination with relevant public sector organisations and government departments so they can be responsive to urgent needs of data collection and analyses in the event of pandemic and other disaster.