Surviving Post COVID-19 Crisis

A collaborative development approach needed

Nazma Sultana Lily and Saeed Ahmed Siddiquee | Published: 00:00, Jul 28,2020 | Updated: 21:37, Jul 27,2020


CHARLES Darwin wildly quoted words are, survival of the fittest meaning those who adept well can survive. In light of his analysis, we will discuss the global and local development in the post pandemic world. The COVID- 19 has already created a deeper socio-economic hole in our country. Impacts of the pandemic may grew deeper and leave recession. It will further widen the monetary crises and economic gap between countries. The burning question is how countries are responding to this crisis in myriad of context.

Bangladesh’s mandate is to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 with the aim to earning the official ‘developing country’ status by 2024. All these are expected to happen through the implementation of the upcoming 8th five year plan (fiscal year 2021-2025). The Vision 2041 of the government expects to build a ‘developed country’ in the upcoming two decades.

Now, to achieve SDGs in all countries, according to the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing 2019, it will require additional global investments in the range of US$5 trillion to US$7 trillion per year up to 2030. Bangladesh, according to the Bangladesh Development Forum 2020, would require USD 2,000 to USD 3,000 billion by 2030 to attain the SDGs. In addition, the General Economics Division of the government under the Planning Commission said, apart from internal financial contribution, an average share of around 15 per cent is being projected from external sources where the share of Foreign Direct Investment is 10 per cent and Development Partners’ financial contribution is 5 per cent of total SDG financing including NGOs contribution of around 4 per cent.

In what ways can the development partners support the government initiatives and plans? The development partners and civil society organisations can play vital roles in the 8th five year plan by supporting the government in the domain of private sector engagement, productive engagement of the youth through innovative SME financing, climate financing, primary healthcare for all, smart urbanisation, better citizen services, quality education for all, ensuring transparency, accountability and more. Therefore, there is a need to prioritise and synchronisation of development plans of the government and civil society organisations.

To ensure the rapid transformation of rural Bangladesh, the political party in power has announced a major strategy in its electoral manifestos titled ‘My Village, My Town’ which aims to bring modern civic amenities to every village, now it has to be reflected in the government’s plan of action. The question is how these goals can be achieved? In addition to the government’s approach of integrated rural planning, the civil society organisations can take part to reach out the communities in hard-to-reach areas. Therefore, development partners can contribute to this particular issue by providing technical assistance on government’s delivery mechanisms (both in supply and demand side).

The civil society organisations may also develop a strategy to monitor and participate in the implementation of prime minister’s stimulus packages worth of BDT 103,117 crore to address the impact of the pandemic COVID-19. Currently, only about 4.2 USD (nearly 357 BDT) per person per year is spent on health from the national budget. The out of pocket expenditures on health account is 10.4 USD (nearly 884 BDT) per person per year (Health Care Financing Strategy, 2012-2032). The development partners and civil society organisations can seek membership in the national level COVID-19 management committees to contribute holistically. Of course, the adoption and execution of the ‘zero tolerance policy’ against corruption would be essential in this regard.

The government’s target is to create 1.13 crore new jobs in its next five year plan by generating around 20-22 lakh new jobs each year from fiscal 2020-21 to 2024-25. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics 2018, 60 per cent of our population is of working age and 35 per cent of it consists of the youth. Henceforth, the concept of job creations can be spread across the country by covering the number of jobs horizontally. To perceive what kind of job opportunities will be created in the next five years, universities should conduct exploratory research in these areas and guide the government policy. Indeed, the development extensive assistance is a must for fulfilling the government’s target of creating new jobs by 2025 and ensuring the projected economic growth of the country.

As of January 2020, more than 2500 civil society organisations are registered in Bangladesh according to NGO Affairs Bureau which was around 7000 in 2014. The number of organisations is radically shrinking. Only a small number of philanthropic development partners are engaged in advocacy work, most do not. As recognised by the 2030 Agenda, these organisations can play critical roles in SDG implementation by several means such as raising awareness and mobilising the remote communities, building capacity across the implementers, reviewing policies and holding the governments accountable to their commitments to achieve their vision. Likewise, project proposal from the CSOs should be well aligned with national priorities and Bangladesh’s already agreed SDGs targets. It should also avoid duplication of interventions among the entities by covering maximum marginalised and vulnerable communities across the country. Presently civil society organisations are in a difficult position due to fund shortage and strict surveillance of government. In order for a better balance between GO and NGOs, this has to change. No goal or target can be achieved in isolation. To establish the concept of SDG forum ‘whole of society approach’, a better communication between the government and its development partners is needed.

It can be assumed that, Bangladesh is going to enter into a period of economic recession due to the COVID- 19 pandemic as is already evidenced in other low income countries of the world. To overcome this situation, best combination of the economic, environmental and political approaches, termed as ‘rainbow stimulus’ by Overseas Development Institute, can be explored by the government. Meanwhile, the development partners can contribute to more aid for trade, investment in infrastructure, support for green growth, improved social protection and ensure good governance.

Every crisis brings several opportunities. If we consider COVID-19 as a catalyst for positive change then it might open several windows for changes. At the same time, if we sustain the lockdown for a longer period, the economic scarcity may grow deeper resulting into a slow recovery of the country’s economy. A well thought out plan from the government, collaboration between different stakeholders including civil society organisations in implementing this plan can be the only way out. In other words, united and concerted effort is the key to a brighter future for the country.


Nazma Sultana Lily and Mr Saeed Ahmed Siddiquee work in the development sector of Bangladesh.

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