COVID-19: Burundi has to be careful before deciding lockdown, economist says

Burundi has not yet registered any case of COVID-19 infection so far, according to the communiqué of the government released on 25 March. The government has taken some measures, including closing the borders with neighboring countries affected with pandemic and suspending flights at Burundi Melchior Ndadaye International Airport to prevent COVID-19 outbreak.

Faustin Ndikumana « more than 70% of the population runs informal economy and lives from day to day.”

Faustin Ndikumana, an expert in economics, who has analyzed the impact of this pandemic on the economy, believes that it is not yet time to decide lockdown in Burundi. ”

“If we don’t work, business stops, tax revenues drop substantially as we risk increasing public spending as a result of the fight against this pandemic,” said Ndikumana at a news conference held on 27 March.

He fears that if the government declares total lockdown, companies will suspend their activities which will exacerbate the unemployment rate; indirect taxation which represents a very large share in budget revenues will have a huge impact on the state budget.

He explained that more than 70% of the population runs informal economy tha lives from day to day. “How are we going to live if we stop activities?” wonders the expert in economics. Burundi’s economy is not able to subsidize businesses and provide unemployment benefits, “he said.

African countries must be careful before taking the lockdown measure. “How many Burundians are able to hold food stock?” wonders Ndikumana, who believes that the best solution is to raise the population’s awareness as many people are not sufficiently informed about this virus.

Ndikumana calls on the Ministry of Health to provide regular updated information on the situation. He also urges the population to reduce unnecessary large crowds. “The administrative authorities must rigorously monitor the compliance with the hygiene measures implemented by the Ministry of Health,” he said.