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Post-Covid policy must focus on small businesses

Say economists at a conference on economic recovery

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 13 December, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news
Post-Covid policy must focus on small businesses

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Policy interventions for post-Covid economic recovery must focus on money supply to small businesses and comprehensive healthcare, said eminent economists.

They also included green growth and women’s participation in labour market on this priority list.

According to them, despite an early response to the pandemic, the government’s policy interventions were not well targeted at small business and disadvantaged population.

The economists made the observation at a conference on “Bangladesh Emerging from the Pandemic: Coping Experiences and Policy Choices.”

Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh organised the event in Dhaka on Sunday.

Planning Minister MA Mannan was present on the occasion.

He said a concept survey conducted by BBS over telephone showed that although poor people’s sufferings were high in April-May period last year, they started rebounding in September.

He informed that the government would strengthen and modernise 15,000 community clinics, increase supplies and train new doctors.

The minister said the SMEs have been covered by incentive packages and further efforts will be made in the sector. He observed, “The environment is a major concern for the government.”

“The government is trying to gradually shift from coal power in a mild way through mid-term and distant-term plan for developing solar or nuclear power,” he said. 

The minister said, “We’re facing hurdles continuously from internal and external fronts, which is hindering the government’s work.”

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the platform, remarked,“During the pandemic the public interventions were not adequately geared to left behind people. It was general type of incentives.”

He pointed out that the government rolled out incentive packagesat a very early stage of coronaviruspandemic in the country, “but the allocation was insufficient in terms of GDP and its composition was not all Covid-related.”

He said cash support and food support was much less, monetary policy was higher and stronger but fiscal policy was less and coverage of eligible beneficiaries was low because of data unavailability and delivery deficits.

According to surveys, Bangladesh is a moderately affected country as its infection rate was higher than death rate. The country experienced the pandemic with the existing shortcomings in the health system while lagging behind in vaccination. 

“However, the pre-existing problems and vulnerabilities of the country linked to public investment, public institutions or local administration,” Dr Bhattacharya said.

“All the structural problems were exposed during the pandemic in a cruel way,” he observed.

He said the pandemic also exposed the country’s ability to deal with the crisis moment, which is a new problem.  The crisis disproportionately affected disadvantaged group and a new group of people were also added to it including and returnee migrants and floating people.

In case of falling private investment, school dropout, malnutrition, learning inequality due to digital divide, early marriage and return of child labour are the main concern now, the economist said.

He suggested that the crisis should be addressed with new policy intervention.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) executive director Dr Fahmida Khatun called for a comprehensive healthcare system where the disadvantaged people can get healthcare free of cost or at a limited cost.

She sought an increased investment not only in physical infrastructure of health sector but also in soft infrastructure like enhancing the number of doctors and nurses, medicine and other facilities.

Dr Fahmida Khatun emphasised the need to increase money flow to the affected SMEs, ensuring green growth in Covid recovery initiatives and engaging women more in the labour market.