Blog by: Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun
A panel discussion on the challenges of the private sector and global economy during the COVID-19 outbreak
On 6 July, B20 Sherpa, Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, spoke at the IsDB Group’s webinar on the Private Sector Action Response to COVID-19 to discuss the challenges facing the private sector and global economy during the pandemic. The following stems from his remarks.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has had a significant impact in the world. For the business community, it has pushed leaders to reengineer their operating models to ensure employee safety and business continuity. And, businesses across the world have risen to the challenge. Amidst this crisis, there are many examples of resilience and agility in responding to this global pandemic.
One such example that we observed across industries and countries, was companies repurposing their production and R&D capabilities, along with mobilizing their assets to support the fight against COVID-19. Automakers raced to make ventilators, hotels turned into hospitals, and health, beauty & fashion companies repurposed supply chains to produce hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment. Many businesses repurposed and scaled-up their manufacturing and supply chain capabilities to meet a sudden surge in life-saving essentials. The private sector played a critical role in ramping up COVID-19 testing by ensuring transportation of essential supplies and life-saving vaccines from laboratories to inventories, and then to healthcare centres and even isolated communities around the world.
Worldwide collaboration and innovation are instrumental to combat COVID-19 and stimulate global economic recovery. The private sector has stepped up and joined forces to both fund and support the research and development process of the COVID-19 vaccine. Companies across geographies and industries are working together to ensure that life-saving vaccines once developed to cure the coronavirus should be not only universally available but also affordably priced. Just like the pandemic, this scale and dimension of collaboration among businesses, governments and international institutions is unprecedented. It is critical for businesses to keep the momentum on innovation, resilience, and agility as we work towards a recovery phase to boost growth and development.
The B20 – as the voice of the business community to the G20 – is well-positioned to identify solutions to ensure business continuity while maintaining employee well-being, initiate global economic recovery and expedite vaccine development, support the society at large. A direct result from our efforts through the COVID-19 Initiative, implemented back in March, is the B20 special report on COVID-19. Launched in early July, it includes recommendations that align with the mandate of the B20 such as building health resilience, safeguarding human capital and preventing financial instability.
While the pandemic may be showing signs of decline, a full recovery is still a long distance away. The demand recovery might take a long time and will significantly vary between sectors. So, while a cure to the virus is the ultimate health goal, at the same time it is imperative to identify how the private and public sector can cooperate to create an environment that instils safety and confidence while advancing economic prosperity and avoid a global depression.
Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun is the Sherpa of B20 Saudi Arabia. He is also the Secretary General of the Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association (GPCA), following a career of more than two and a half decades in the GCC region’s petrochemicals and energy sectors.