Assuring that a massive vaccination drive will begin in the country in July, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday said the government will provide any amount of money to collect Covid-19 vaccines to ensure free jabs for all.
“I’ve already announced that the government will ensure free vaccination for all. We’ll provide funds, no matter how much is needed, to collect the necessary vaccines to this end,” she said.
She said the government has kept aside Tk 14,200 crore in the national budget for vaccine collection.
“We’ve taken a plan to bring 80 percent of people under the vaccination coverage in phases,” Hasina told the House.
She said the government started contacting the countries developing vaccines when it was at the research stage and provided money to book vaccines.
But, she said, Bangladesh fell into trouble to some extent for the time being as India banned vaccine export after a massive surge in the coronavirus infections there. “Now we’ve managed it. There’ll be no problem for us anymore (in collecting vaccines),” said the Prime Minister.
Mentioning that the government is in touch with China, Russia, the USA and all other vaccine-producing countries and companies, she said her government has already collected 1.14 crore doses of vaccines from different sources.
She said measures have been taken to vaccinate the outbound migrant workers on a priority basis so that they do not have to stay in quarantine once they reach their overseas workplaces.
Mentioning that the health sector has been given top priority as the pandemic persists, the PM said last year the government had successfully tackled its first wave. “We’ve taken effective steps quickly to check the ongoing second wave utilizing that experience. Insha’Allah, we’ll be able to protect public health and public life through tackling the pandemic,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina, also the Leader of the House, said a special allocation of Tk 10,000 crore has been kept aside in this proposed budget to meet any emergency demand as the second wave of the pandemic continues.
The government has recruited some 10,000 physicians, nurses and other health workers, and collected necessary medical equipment with a view to ensuring the quick healthcare services, particularly for the Covid-19 patients, she said.
A coordinated health science research and development fund has been formed to sustain the successes gained in the health sector and enhance the capacity to protect people from the fallouts of any pandemic in the future. Some Tk 100 crore has been allocated for the fund in the budget, Hasina added.
Despite the impacts of the Covid-19 second wave, the economy of Bangladesh is now on the way to complete recovery due to the implementation of 23 stimulus packages and various measures taken by the government.
Pointing out that her government stands beside the people of the country during the crisis as it did in the past, she said: “I promise to people that we’ll take prompt decisions, if necessary, to take any initiative to protect their livelihood and economic recovery. We’ll stand by people.”
She said agriculture is the second highest priority sector in the budget. Though there was stagnation in different sectors due to the pandemic, Bangladesh has been able to keep the production normal in the agricultural sector as the government gave the highest importance to it, Hasina said.
The PM said an allocation of Tk 107,614 crore has been earmarked for the social safety net programmed in the proposed budget, which is 17.8pc of the total budget and 3.1 percent of the country’s GDP.
Employment generation, helping the industry, commerce, agriculture and service sectors recover from the fallout, expansion of society safety net and mass vaccination were given special emphasis in the proposed budget, she said.
Hasina said the economy of Bangladesh incurred a loss of US$ 17 billion in 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years due to the pandemic.
She said the government placed the proposed budget for 2021-22 giving priority to the lives and livelihoods.
“I believe we’ll be able to implement the budget and thus Bangladesh will make one step forward (towards prosperity and development),” she said.
Hasina hoped that Bangladesh would be able to join the development trajectory again by offsetting the economic fallout of the pandemic.