Webinar 1 – Data sources and collection on COVID-19: Measuring impact effectively

Summary of discussions

The webinar was kickstarted by Mr Paul Baker, CEO of International Economics Consulting Ltd. He welcomed all participants to the meeting, and reiterated his thanks to the World Bank and the United Nations for sponsoring this initiative. He mentioned that a new platform is under construction, which will host findings from partner organisations and will be made public shortly.

Mr Erik von Uexkull, World Bank Country Representative of Mauritius and Seychelles, introduced High Frequency Trade Data collected at the Mauritius Revenue Authority Customs Department. He mentioned that the World Bank has a database called the Export Dynamics Database, which records firm level export data. Based on the customs data, the World Bank is analysing export and import flows with the help of a tool, which allows disaggregation of the data to obtain interesting insights. The tool, in the process of being finalized, will be made available soon.

Trade, Investment and Employment in Mauritius

The University of Mauritius, through Dr. Verena Tandrayen-Ragoobur, Associate Professor, Dr. Boopen Seetanah, Associate Professor and Dr. Sheereen Fauzel, Senior Lecturer presented their research on the Impact of COVID-19 and Trade, Investment and Employment in Mauritius. This study, funded by the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council and conducted in collaboration with the Economic Development Board, is still in progress. The final results are expected by the end of the year. The team presented some preliminary analysis resulting from the submitted responses as at date. Interesting results already show that indicators such as Company Performance, Sale revenue, Worker Productivity, Output and Reliability of Supply Chain have suffered a decrease of 20-40%.

Reactions and Outlook to COVID-19 in Africa

Ms Bineswaree Bolaky, Economic Affairs Officer at the Economic Commission for Africa, presented the Reactions and Outlook to COVID-19 in Africa survey results, run in collaboration with the International Economics Consulting Ltd. She mentioned that though the survey was administered across Africa, almost one quarter of the responses were received from Mauritius. In comparison to the April survey, the new survey added new dimensions such as gender and innovation opportunities. The survey showed that the number one challenge is the reduced opportunities to meet new customers, while drop in demand and lack of operational cash flow were also seen as major challenges. She also elaborated on the impact on supply shortage and market distortions. The raw data will be published on the platform for the public to download and carry further analysis. The survey results are already available.

Productivity in Mauritius: Status, Trends, and Priorities for Action

The National Productivity and Competitiveness Council (NPCC) was represented by Mrs Hemlata Ramsohok Jomadar, Lead research, Advisory and Knowledge Management. She spoke about research around Productivity in Mauritius: Status, Trends, and Priorities for Action. The NPCC is currently conducting a firm-level survey on productivity and its enabling factors, along with a flagship report that exploits the newly collected data to present policy-oriented research. The outcome will focus on three key areas, namely sectoral disaggregation, business enabling environment and skill gaps. Mr Erik von Uexkull, co-presenter, mentioned that the survey is in line with the World Bank’s global enterprise survey methodology and micro data will be made available on the new research platform.

Socio-Economic Effects of the Pandemic on Mauritian households

Mrs Gangamah Appadu, Principal Statistician at the Statistics Mauritius, talked about Socio-Economic Effects of the Pandemic on Mauritian households. The objective of the survey is to monitor the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on the lives of Mauritian households and to collect a core set of labour market data to inform decision making in the context of government lockdowns. The Rapid Continuous Multi-Purpose Household Survey, conducted in collaboration with the World Bank, collects data on the labour market, access to goods and services and food security, access to health service and education and household shocks and coping strategies. The interesting fact pointed out from the May survey is that approximately 130,000 fewer Mauritians were employed as compared to Q1 2020. She pointed out that an unemployed person is classified by the International Labour Organisation as someone who is not employed, is looking for a job and is available. The survey results are available on the Statistics Mauritius’ website. Mr Erik von Uexkull, pointed out that the employment statistics are related to formal and informal sectors. He also shared that the Statistics Mauritius has a variety of data available on its website, related to COVID-19.

UN Ongoing Surveys

Dr Tony Muhumuza, Senior Economist at the United Nations Development Programme, presented the work the UNDP is conducting relating to on-going surveys to support analysis of COVID-19. He mentioned that there are a number of surveys going on, such as the household survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 in Mauritius. He mentioned that the UNDP is contributing to the value addition of the surveys by assessing the situation before, during and after the breakdown.

Multi-Purpose Light Disinfection Chamber

Dr Amar Kumar Seeam, Associate Director at the Middlesex University, presented the research work that they are undertaking on the Development of a Multi-Purpose Light Disinfection Chamber. The research assesses the effect of Ultra-Violet light spectrum on bacteria and viruses. He mentioned that the study can help to inactivate human viruses, without adversely affecting other cells, such as genetic effects and the skin.

Remarks

Mr Prakash Hurry from the Regional Multidisciplinary Center of Excellence mentioned that he wanted to see some analysis on the tourism sector, which contributes significantly to Mauritius’s Gross Domestic Product.

Mr Daden Venkatasawmy, from Business Mauritius, commented that the results from Statistics Mauritius are interesting and important for making policy decision.

Dr. Pierre Fallavier, Senior Adviser to the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office, mentioned that various United Nations entities are carrying out sectoral assessments of the impact of COVID-19 in Mauritius. He mentioned that this research platform initiative can be of great support to a coordinated approach to understanding the impacts of the pandemics and to feeding policy debates about responses to it. It will provide a venue for all participants to improve research methodologies as well as to share data and collaborate in analyzing them from different, complementary perspectives, while helping develop long-term collaboration between UN entities, universities, and other private contributors. It further has value for other joint research and impact assessment initiatives underway, including the integrated environmental and socio-economic impact monitoring of the recent Wakashio crisis on the Mauritius Southeastern coastlines. He pointed, however, that numerous overlapping surveys are already being carried out near the business communities, which is likely to lead to less than optimal results, as respondents will be tired of repeatedly sending the same information. It would be good for participants to collaborate in the design and implementation of future survey, as well as to review the ethical and practical considerations of some of the details asked, to ensure the reliability of the responses. He also raised questions for later discussion: (i) How to practically, legally and ethically share data among participants; and (ii) How to develop a peer review mechanism to provide feedback and quality assurance of the work produced by platform participants.

Mr Erik von Uexkull closed the session by thanking all the participants for their contribution to the success of the webinar. He mentioned that after internal discussions, the group will be advised on the launching of the platform and subsequent webinars.

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