Tuesday, 30 May, 2023

Eroding purchasing power makes SDGs challenging

Indicators are not immune to negative impacts of the pandemic, says Citizen’s Platform for SDGs

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 11 March, 2022 12:00 AM
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Eroding purchasing power makes SDGs challenging
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Distinguished Fellow and Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh Convenor Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya speaks at the unveiling ceremony of a Covid-19 impact survey in the capital on Thursday.

Implementation of sustainable development goals (SDGs) will be an uphill task for Bangladesh if the purchasing capacity of marginal people can’t be stopped from further erosion, said Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh. 

Unveiling a Covid-19 impact survey on Thursday, it said the marginal people are the worst sufferers of the pandemic impacts and the skyrocketing inflation may further erode their purchasing capacity leaving them in a tight spot.

“No SDGs or the indicators were immune to negative impacts of Covid-19 pandemic, but traditionally lagged behind people or those newly pushed behind bore the brunt of the impact most,” commented Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the platform.   

The survey report said that socioeconomic repercussions are broad and severe in Bangladeshrelative to health shocks.

Impact on livelihood and wellbeing would be more protracted, magnifying existing inequalities, it said.

“Any failure to maintaining the purchasing capacity of these lagged behind population will make their life tougher. Keeping commodity prices stable is very important for them at this moment,” Dr. Bhattacharya stated.  As immediate measures, the noted economist suggested fending off free fall of taka-dollar exchange rate, curtailing interest rate and lower interest burden on the heavily affected groups and cut tax burden on essential commodities.

At the same time, he also sees scope for further raising subsidies on electricity, energy and food sectors and plugging in loopholes in existing subsidies.    

Economic, social and health issues – triple blow of Covid-19 threaten to rollback decades of SDG progress in Bangladesh and create more hurdle to subsequent delivery, Citizen’s Platform said.

It predicts that the Covid-19 impacts may stay for at least next three years for Bangladesh and achieving the poverty or hunger free status in line with SDGs might not be possible.

The platform called for appropriate policy response and more resources allocation to recoup the losses caused by the pandemic.

Distinguished Fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Prof. Mustafizur Rahman sees the increased inequality and the high inflationary pressures as the major challenge Bangladesh is going to face in short and mid-term.  He felt more necessity of social security schemes now.He, however, said only GDP’s 1.7 percent goes to 120 programmes of social security, excluding pension, while the national strategy eyes on 3 percent allocation.

Besides, 40 percent of population is children, but social safety allocation for them is less than 10 percent, the researcher mentioned. Bangladesh has to increase enhance its pie of domestic resource mobilisation to allocate more on the priority areas without hurting other areas, according to him.

“We’ve to think comprehensively while preparing the budget so that the lagged behind people won’t pushed back further,” he suggested, referring to United Nation’s new slogan “build forward better” in place of “build back better.”

For addressing the pressing issues, Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya sees “misinformation” as a key problem now alongside the data deficit.  “There are questions about credibility of government data, not only growth data, but also the data given about inflation which has no reflection of surrounding realities,” he remarked.

“Some say inflation can be double. The marginal people are under huge pressure. The question is whether the data deficit is more problematic or misinformation,” he added.  “In Bangladesh, policies are being formulated and executed in a dark. Now, poverty alleviation has become more challenging than earlier,” Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya observed.

Citing popular global practice amid the pandemic, he advised the government accept private micro surveys after checking out the findings by a specialist committee.

Bangladesh did well in only under-5 child mortality rate out of 28 SDGs indicators, but the situation has deteriorated now, the survey said. Besides, school enrollment, loss in education, rising child marriage, child labour and violence against women and improvement in governance have been more challenging after the pandemic, it stated.

CPD researcher Towfiqul Islam Khan added that the upcoming VNR on SDGS will be challenging for Bangladesh.

He stated that the inflation data is not consistent as the effects of inflation can’t be concealed as those directly affect lives.  “Misinformation can be detrimental to political parties as well,” he warned.