Bangladesh economy to grow at 3.6pc in FY21: WB

Staff Correspondent

1 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh’s economy will grow at 3.6 per cent in the current fiscal year of 2020-21 buoyed by the better-than-expected remittance inflow, the World Bank says in an updated forecast.

In its latest regional economic update, it also forecast that the gross domestic product (GDP) growth will be 5.1 per cent and 6.2 per cent in 2021-22 and 2022-23 FYs respectively.

In January this year, the WB projected that the GDP growth in 2020-21 and 2021-22 FYs would be 2 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.

The latest South Asia Economic Focus South Asia Vaccinates released on Wednesday shows South Asia is on the path of economic recovery as the region’s economy is expected to rebound with 7.2 per cent in 2021 and 4.4 per cent in 2022.

The region is set to regain its historical growth rate by 2022. The improved economic outlook reflects the efforts of the South Asian countries to keep their Covid-19 caseload under control and swiftly roll out vaccine campaigns, it said. 

Governments’ decisions to transition from widespread lockdowns to more targeted interventions, accommodating monetary policies and fiscal stimuli—through targeted cash transfers and employment compensation programmes—have also propped up recovery, the report noted.

Electricity consumption and mobility data are a clear indication of recovering economic activity.

But the growth is uneven and economic activity well below pre-Covid estimates, as many businesses need to make up for lost revenue and millions of workers, most of them in the informal sector, still reel from job losses, falling incomes, worsening inequalities, and human capital deficits, says the World Bank in its twice-a-year-regional update.       

“We’re encouraged to see clear signs of an economic rebound in South Asia, but the pandemic is not yet under control and the recovery remains fragile, calling for vigilance,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice-president for the South Asia Region.

“Going forward, South Asian countries need to ramp up their vaccination programmes and invest their scarce resources wisely to set a foundation for a more inclusive and resilient future,” he said.

India, which comprises the bulk of the region’s economy, is expected to grow more than 10 per cent in the fiscal year of 2021-22—a substantial upward revision of 4.7 percentage points from January 2021 forecasts.

The outlook for Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan has also been revised upward. Nepal’s GDP is projected to grow at 2.7 per cent in 2021-22 and recover to 5.1 percent by 2023; Pakistan’s growth is expected to reach 1.3 per cent in 2021, slightly above previous projections.

While laying bare South Asia’s deep-seated inequalities and vulnerabilities, the pandemic provides an opportunity to chart a path towards a more equitable and robust recovery.

To that end, the report recommends that governments develop universal social insurance to protect informal workers, increase regional cooperation, and lift customs restrictions on key staples to prevent sudden spikes in food prices.

South Asia, which grapples with high stunting rates among children and accounts for more than half of the world’s student dropouts due to Covid-19, needs to ramp up investments in human capital to help new generations grow up healthy and become productive workers.

Noting that South Asia’s public spending on healthcare is the lowest in the world, the report also suggests that countries further invest in preventive care, finance health research, and scale up their health infrastructure, including for mass and quick production of vaccines.

“The health and economic benefits from vaccinations greatly exceed the costs involved in purchasing and distributing vaccines for all South Asian countries,” said Hans Timmer, World Bank chief economist for the South Asia Region.

“South Asia has stepped up to vaccinate its people, but its healthcare capacity is limited as the region only spends 2 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, lagging any other region. The main challenge ahead is to reprioritise limited resources and mobilise more revenue to reach the entire population and achieve full recovery.”

The World Bank, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of Covid-19.