The Asian Development Bank Institute said governments in the Asia Pacific should move to pursue better delivery of social infrastructure services particularly on health, education and housing in a post-pandemic world.
The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened social and economic gaps between the rich and the poor and vulnerable in all countries. Before the pandemic, it was estimated that Asia needed at least $1.6 trillion annually to boost social infrastructure. The pandemic has increased such demand by up to a percentage of the regional economy.
“Social services are the main output of social infrastructure, and their provision depends upon physical infrastructure, such as hospital buildings, public housing, roads and telecommunication facilities,” the multilateral lender’s think tank said.
It added that such investment is crucial to ensure a resilient and more inclusive recovery and development in Asia. It maintained that there is widespread health service under-capacity in low and middle income countries in Asia and the Pacific including the Philippines.
“This under capacity poses long term risks beyond the pandemic. There is a risk of the crowding out of essential health services, such as services for immunization and reproductive and child health,” ADBI noted.
Further, ADBI maintained that education is crucial to achieving economic growth but the pandemic led to school closures which resulted in reduced learning outcomes, increased school dropouts, and an increased reliance on distance learning, all which disadvantage those lacking to digital information and communication infrastructure.
It also said access to quality and affordable housing has become important for employment, health and education. But housing in most Asian cities, including Manila, remains unaffordable for median households.
In order to improve social infrastructure provision, ADBI said there should be regulatory reforms to attract greater private sector investment amid limited public resources.
Although the pandemic has exposed a lot of weaknesses in our society, not much has been done to remedy those issues as most of the focus and attention remains on it. However, for countries to recover properly, a long view has to be adopted by governments and the upgrade of social infrastructure services needs to be among the top priorities if life after the pandemic is going to be any better.
Hopefully, our government is listening and preparing Filipino society for the post-pandemic world.*