Corona may create 15 million new poor

Jannatul Islam

28th June, 2020 03:42:07 printer

Corona may create 15 million new poor

The government should address the needs of the ‘new poor’ in addition to ensuring proper utilisation of the stimulus package to expedite the efforts for economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, experts said.

Around 15 million people are projected to become ‘new poor’ due to unemployment and adaptation to the ‘new normal’ in the post-Covid-19 situation.

Talking to the daily sun, experts also underscored the need for decentralisation of workforce, laying focus on agriculture and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector.

Former Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Atiur Rahman said the economy cannot be made fully operational until complete eradication of coronavirus.

“We need to open the economy cautiously without affecting our efforts to win the war against corona. If we can remove the fear of infection and death through appropriate testing, isolation and follow-up treatment, only then economic stakeholders will gain the confidence to move ahead in the new normal.”

He also recommended continuing to provide cash for the new poor and operate the ongoing social protection to the disadvantaged population so that they can survive the crisis.

“We need three-pronged economic recovery strategies: immediate, short-term and medium to long-term to address the crisis. Health, agriculture, social protection and stimulus packages must get full attention from the policymakers and they must ensure quality implementation of the budget,” Prof Atiur, also the Bangabandhu Chair at Dhaka University, explained.

In particular, Prof Atiur emphasised that agriculture and SMEs must get enough resources so that the rural economy can generate enough demand.

“Agricultural supply chain should be remoulded through the use of digital start-ups and revival of the broken conventional supply chain. Export sector should be encouraged to get diversified and greener to respond to new post-Covid global demand.”

Regarding the economic recovery, Dr Atiur mentioned that Bangladesh Bank should continue to inject sustainable finance to the banking and financial sector as a whole to execute the stimulus packages. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced various stimulus packages worth around 1 trillion taka to restore the country’s economy. Research organization Light Castle Partners recently unveiled a report on reopening the Bangladesh economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Deployment of healthcare technology and controlling public gatherings bring positive result in the case of reopening economic activities, according to the report.

The report also recommended for evaluating the requirements for and obstructions to applying such strategies in Bangladesh, given the socio-economic landscape and infrastructural deficiencies.

Echoing the LightCastle report, Policy Research Institute (PRI) Executive Chairman Ahsan H Mansur emphasized on containment measures and mobilization of community-based activities to contain the spread of the pandemic and resume the economy.

“The government should support the new poor segment as 15 million people have already lost jobs amid pandemic,” economist Ahsah H Mansur, also chairman of Brac Bank, told the Daily Sun on Friday.

He said Bangladesh Bank should play a pro-active role for ‘proper utilization’ of the stimulus package announced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.