Experts and policymakers on Wednesday stressed more investments for job and income creation activities for new poor and returnee migrants and special attention to overseas employment for resilient economic recovery amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
They also suggested expansion of the government’s cash transfer programmes for poor to help them survive.
They made the remarks at a webinar titled ‘impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Bangladesh: options for building resilience’ organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies.
Prime minister’s economic affairs adviser Mashiur Rahman said that the country should be cautious in spending remittance earnings.
Remittance has become an important earnings source in a time when export income and the rate of new overseas job creation have slowed down, he said.
Expatriates have been sending more money in recent months for family expenditure, leaving them in a situation with very little savings, he said, adding that workers would fall in a very dire situation when they would come back empty handed.
‘The government should look into the possibility of distributing a portion of profit of Prabashi Kalyan Bank to them whose money in the form of fees is deposited in the bank,’ he said.
He also said that private hospitals and clinics should not be shut down just not having an updated licence or documents as the sector was providing 65 per cent of health services.
The government rather should ensure standard inspection to monitor quality, he suggested.
Regarding access to the stimulus packages by small and medium enterprises, he recommended that the government act as a bridge between the SMEs and the banks so that they could get loans from the packages.
Banks usually do not want to give money to the SMEs due to lack of familiarity and high costs of recovery, he added.
Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman said that economic recovery and large scale employment could be sustained only through enhanced private sector investment.
The public sector investment is important to stimulate private investment for job creation, income generation, poverty reduction and boost demand on the domestic market, he said.
The country’s economy is primarily driven by domestic demand, he added.
Both local and foreign direct investments should be given priority to tap the potential demand for goods on the global market, he added.
Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies secretary general Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said that manpower export sector was under serious threat amid the COVID-19 outbreak as most of the countries kept their border closed.
Though the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has opened its border, agencies are facing various problems in sending workers to the country due to the expiry of visa and excessive air ticket price.
A huge number of workers who came to the country on vacation have remained stuck while many visas expired and sending new workers also slowed down amid the outbreak.
He sought stimulus as soft loan for the sector so that it could overcome the crisis.
The government should also increase the incentive on remittance to encourage overseas workers to extend supports amid the crisis and encourage them to send money through formal channel.
‘We should also care about people instead of thinking about remittance,’ he said.
South Asian Network on Economic Modeling research director Sayema Haque Bidisha stressed special employment and social safety net schemes, particularly for urban poor, as many people lost their jobs and income amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Access to finance and marketing is also important to facilitate self-employment, she said.
BIISS chairman M Fazlul Karim, director general Major General Md Emdad Ul Bari, research director Mohammad Mahfuz Kabir, among others, spoke at the programme.
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