USSBC Economic Brief: B20:Initiative to Address COVID-19 Impact
The global pandemic of COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for governments and businesses. The virus now accounts for 5.2 million cases worldwide and more than 335,000 deaths. The IMF projects that global GDP will contract by 3 percent in 2020 after governments implemented lockdown policies that stalled business operations and supply chains in the interest of public health. The first case of COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia was confirmed on March 2 with cases now surpassing 67,000 according to the Ministry of Health. At the time of publication, over 39,000 individuals have recovered from COVID-19 while 351 individuals have died. In Saudi Arabia, the virus first appeared in the eastern city of Qatif and spread throughout the Kingdom with Makkah now accounting for the highest number of cases followed by Riyadh and Jeddah. The U.S. meanwhile has reported more than 1.8 million cases and more than 106,000 deaths. In terms of cases and deaths per capita, G20 countries have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic thus far. As President of the G20, Saudi Arabia has played a major role in coordinating globa cooperation in response to the pandemic and will continue to lead the effort towards recovery and reopening.
B20 Saudi Arabia, the voice of the business community to G20 Saudi Arabia, announced its COVID-19 Initiative on March 19 and joined the International Chamber of Commerce and World Health Organization in urging G20 heads of state to adopt and pursue globally coordinated policy measures. These measures include the utilization of the private sector to meet testing and reporting needs, ensuring equitable access and affordability of essential medical supplies, and providing scalable financial assistance to meet the full spectrum of business needs. On April 29, the U.S.-Saudi Business Council (USSBC) and B20 held a virtual town hall meeting to raise awareness about B20’s COVID-19 initiative and to gather feedback and recommendations from members of the Business Council as well as members of the business community at large. USSBC conducted a survey ahead of the town hall to gauge the impact on businesses and to solicit policy responses and recommendations in light of the ongoing global pandemic. This brief will present the results of that survey, which received responses from more than 300 companies of various sizes and sectors.