COVID-19 poses an unprecedented challenge to governments and their societies worldwide and thus demands a swift, coordinated and targeted response. As the UN’s technical lead agency on socio-economic impact and recovery, UNDP – in its integrator role as highlighted by the Deputy Secretary General – is supporting the Lao Government’s request, through Centre for Development Policy Research under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, to conduct assessments of the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 in Lao PDR. The assessment will both draw together the sectoral assessment efforts of other UN partners and itself focus in-depth on key sectors such as livelihoods and employment, tourism, agriculture, health, education, social protection and other cross-cutting issues and then use this information to develop short, medium- and long-term policy recommendations.
The recommendations from this exercise will contribute to the Government of Lao’s (GoL) understanding of who is worst affected, how they are affected, and what do they need to recover, so that policies and concrete actions can be designed to ensure the individuals, households, businesses, and groups that are most affected by the crisis receive the support they need. In turn, this will help safeguard the crucial progress made by Lao PDR towards alleviating poverty, achieving the SDGs, and graduating from LDC status, as well as supporting the ongoing development of the 9th NSEDP.
UNDP Lao PDR is looking for a international consultant, to lead the exercise to be supported by national consultant/s, to carry out the impact assessment by providing technical and analytical support.
The first COVID-19 positive case was reported in Lao PDR on 23rd March 2020 and on 29 March 2020, GoL introduced several measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including enforcing a nationwide lockdown between 1-19 April 2020, which was then extended to 3 May 2020. The Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Planning and Investment / Ministry of Planning & Investment was appointed to lead an economic impact assessment in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Bank of the Lao PDR, Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, business owners and other concerned agencies and propose mitigation policies to the Government urgently.
On 2 April 2020, Prime Minister’s Decision No.6/PM added policy responses and measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on Lao Economy. Key policy interventions include a series of temporary tax measures, such as exemption of payroll taxes for all public and private sector employees with a monthly salary lower than 5 million kip and income tax exemption for all micro enterprises for three months starting from April 2020; deferment of payment of taxes for tourism and travel related businesses for three months; extension of deadline for submission of income tax filing for 2019 for all businesses by one more month from previous March 31 to April 30, 2020; and extension of deadline for the payment of road taxes from originally set on March 31 to June 30, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have numerous immediate and long-term impacts on the Lao economy, including declines in domestic demand, tourism and business travel, investment, trade and production linkages, agriculture, food security, and supply chain disruptions. With tourism accounting for 12% of Lao economy and more than 10% of total employment in 2018, the impact on tourism has been felt heavily as the number of tourists is declining under current restrictions, which then has spill-over effects on tourism-related sectors such as transport, aviation, resorts, hotels and restaurants and their supply chains. Large scale construction projects which rely on materials and workers from China are likely to experience delays setting off poor demand for auxiliary service that support such projects. Mining and agricultural exports have already experienced a significant decline as demand from China decreases. The impact on employment and income losses will likely be significant as business activities slow down. The Ministry of Planning and Investment and National Institute of Economic Research have revised the economic growth projection for 2020 down from 6.5% to 3.5% because the key drivers of the economy such as tourism, export manufacturing, and other service sectors are on the declining trend. Estimated figures show that economic losses will be huge. For instances, tourism sector will lose around $350 million; export nearly $500 million; and FDI around $60 million. The government will take a big hit, expecting to lose over $1 billion in revenue excluding revenue loss from the tax exemption policy
Duties and Responsibilities
The proposed assessment will comprise of three mutually reinforcing components, to pull together the analytical work of the UN agencies in Lao PDR and targeted thematic socio-economic impact assessments to create a coherent analysis of the impact of COVID-19 and inform specific recommendations and guidance including on the policy front to limit the interruption to SDG achievements.
1. Consolidated Analysis of all UN Agencies
The first component of the assessment will produce a consolidated analysis of rapid and other impact assessments conducted by several UN agencies, with whom the consultant and research team will be expected to liaise closely with to consolidate the analysis from the UN Country Team level. For instance, some of the proposed rapid/impact assessments include a focus on: women and children’s welfare and nutrition; social protection schemes; border checkpoints; impact on the local food supply chain; gender based violence, MSMEs by sector and towards enhancing business preparedness, and the effects on vulnerable communities.
2. Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Based on Thematic Areas
The second component of the assessment will focus on targeted thematic areas that, based on related work and after consultation with the Government, have been identified as priority areas for the impact of COVID-19. Detailed assessments in these areas will seek to understand the magnitude of the impact, with a specific focus on potential regression in progress towards the SDGs in Lao PDR. Proposed thematic areas include the following, which may be further discussed at the start of the assignment:
a. Livelihoods and Employment
- Private Sector (MSMEs: tourism, agri-business, garment, textile, and handicrafts): identify the impact of COVID-19 on micro and small businesse, their operations, staff, and profits, with a focus on vulnerable groups including those employed informally. It is planned to link this assessment to existing UNDP projects that are, or plan to, focus on enhancing business preparedness and support progress towards achieving gender equality.
- Poverty and Inequalities: the impact of COVID at the household level, using monetary and multidimensional measures and a randomly selected sample to identify those at risk of falling back into poverty in the aftermath of the crisis. The assessment will use the most recent national household data administered by the Lao Bureau of Statistics as a baseline for the analysis. The data provide detailed information on household and geographic characteristics which will allow the identification of the poor as well as those who moved up recently above the national poverty line at the district and village levels.
b. Social Sector
- Education: the impact of COVID-19 on education will depend on the duration of the crisis. The disruption of education process will have a long-term negative impact on human capital development, especially households with no access to technology such as internet access for online learning tools. The assessment will analyse how children of different socio-economic backgrounds are able to continue their schooling – including the different approach between public and private schools – on key issues like quality and regularity of pupil-teacher contact, dropout rates etc. It will identify policy support to help those who are disadvantaged.
- Health: the impact on the health sector’s capacity to continue to deliver quality health services to all. This analysis will assess the impact on the overall health sector as well as access to water, sanitation and hygiene services. As the crisis worsens, people who are daily wage earners, including those in the informal sector, and struggling to make ends meet will suffer the most from the losses of income and employment. This will then affect their ability to access healthcare as they have no social protection.
- Social Protection: this plays a critical role in responding to economic and social vulnerabilities. The current proposal will seek to collaborate with other UN agencies with existing interventions in this aspect to understand the impact of the outbreak on the existing system, as well as how the system could be strengthened to mitigate the vulnerabilities caused by COVID-19.
- Cross-Cutting issues
- Understanding the gender-differentiated impacts of the disease outbreak is fundamental to creating effective, equitable policies and interventions that leave no-one behind. Given the existing gender gap, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to economic dis-empowerment, worsening food security, exponential increase in unpaid domestic work and care burdens, and gender-based violence, all of which are concerns that will be considered throughout the impact assessments.
- Under four major ethno-linguistics groups, there are 50 recognized ethnic communities that make up the country’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity. Yet, these ethnic groups are often marginalized as they reside mostly in remote areas and have very limited access to information and basic services. The assessment will ensure this characteristic of Lao PDR is included in the analysis and develop policy actions that address the specific needs of ethnic groups.
- Impact on other vulnerable groups, such as children, migrants, persons with disabilities, and the elderly will be mainstreamed in all aspects of the analysis so that policymakers are able to respond to the crisis in an inclusive and holistic manner
Based on the above, component three of the assessment will develop short- and medium-term recovery measures, specific to the key sectors as outlined above, for the Government of Laos in addressing the impact of COVID19 and preparing for recovery, ensuring inclusive growth of the economy, likely impact on the LDC graduation process and minimizing SDG regression. Moreover, given the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, the section will offer different recovery options in response to different possible scenarios, to ensure that the recommendations remain relevant and constructive.
- The first component of the assessment will involve a desk review – in collaboration with the other team member/s – to coordinate and consolidate the various assessments and inputs from partner UN agencies, incorporating any other relevant surveys and information available from development partners.
- For the thematic impact assessments, it is envisaged a team from UNDP will work alongside the lead consultant and team, with guidance from the National Economist and support from regional economist network. The consultant will lead the assessments and liaise closely with government counterparts in each of the relevant ministries/bodies for the thematic areas in question. This will ensure a high level of government involvement throughout the process and enable the assessment to be responsive to the changing needs of the Government. Sampling methodology and research tools will be ensured that different methods will be utilised to avoid exclusion of most vulnerable groups, including children, elderly, or those in remote locations, who are not reachable online.
- Data collection process could include: the use of existing data, desktop review, focus group discussion, consultation with national stakeholders, online survey disseminated through sectoral association network. The team will work with Laos Statistics Bureau to gather all existing data on household characteristics from the latest Lao Expenditure and Consumption Survey—the nationally representative household data.
- Secondary data review will be conducted, including but not limited to, the latest Lao Social Indicator Survey, Lao Statistics Yearbook, and the Labour Force Survey. The results are to be highlighted as pre-crisis baseline data.
- Ongoing online surveys will also be reviewed; where data sharing is possible, analysis of the most recent data collected by different agencies will be needed to understand the situation more broadly, particularly the surveys on MSMEs have now been conducted several agencies. The consultant will be required to do preliminary assessments on whether the existing data can be used for key policy inferences, or that more data collection is needed.
- Review of the existing research: this project will draw upon results of the earlier work done by UN agencies, World Bank, ADB, and the IMF, highlighting key implications for Lao context as much as possible.
- Sound understanding of the Lao political economy and policies; past experience in advisory support to the Lao government will be desirable.
- Excellent command of written and Spoken English is required, and knowledge of Lao language is an advantage.
Required Skills and Experience
- Minimum of a master’s degree in economics, international development, public policy, statistics, econometrics, or other related fields.
- A minimum of 7 years progressive relevant experience, preferably in developing or least developed countries, in conducting economic analysis, impact assessments of social policy, programme evaluation, or economic modelling and simulation.
- Experience in conducting similar sectoral studies such as tourism, agriculture, labour market, social protection, poverty, rural development, SDGs, MSMEs, in the last five years will be a strong asset
Interested persons are requested to submit the following documents as part of their application:
- Brief description/cover letter of why the individual considers him/herself as the most suitable for the assignment. Please paste the letter into the ‘Resume and Motivation’ section of the electronic application
- Completed Letter of Confirmation of Interest and Availability using the template provided by UNDP
- P11 Form indicating all relevant experience as well as the contact details (email and telephone number) of the candidate and at least three (3) professional references. Please use the P11 form provided by UNDP
- Financial Proposal that indicates the daily fees as per the template provided by UNDP (Offeror's Letter)
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