Job creation, GDP targets to be scaled back 

Shakhawat Hossain  | Published at 12:12am on September 28, 2020

The government is set to backtrack on its initial targets for the Eighth Five-Year Plan, including of job creation and GDP growth, amid the lingering COVID-19 crisis.

The job creation target will be reduced below 90 lakh from the initial projection of 1.13 crore for the next five fiscal years until June 2025, according to planning ministry officials.

The average GDP growth target will be refixed at 7.3 per cent in place of the originally-projected 8 per cent plus for the period, they said.

Economists observed that the projections were unrealistic since the private sector, the main driving force of the economy, was shy of making investments due to the bureaucratic hassles and as there was no real progress in ease of doing business.

General Economics Division member Dr Shamsul Alam on Saturday told New Age that job creation would face challenges due to the ongoing automation and technology adoption processes and the prolonged virus pandemic.

He said that the projected new job creation target was slightly lower than 95 lakh, projected in the seventh five-year plan that expired in June 2020.

He hoped that GDP growth might bounce back to 8 per cent in FY2022 resulting from the implementation of the stimulus packages and the projected recovery of the manufacturing, service and agriculture sectors.

GED officials expected that the new-five year plan, harmonised with the 2021–41 perspective plan, would be finalised by the government next month.

Former caretaker government adviser Mirza Azizul Islam pointed out that the targets projected in the previous plans were never achieved.

Even the GDP growth at 5.2 per cent in the previous 2019–20 fiscal year, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, raised huge doubt, he said. 

He noted that it would be an uphill task to jack up private investment to 35 per cent, a key condition to achieve an 8 per cent GDP growth.

Quoting the draft five-year plan, the GED officials said that private-sector investment was projected to grow to 22.5 per cent of the GDP in the current fiscal year and to 28.2 per cent of the GDP in FY25.

Former World Bank Dhaka office chief economist Zahid Hussain on Sunday said that the private-sector investment projections were very good like in the previous five-year plan. 

But the strategies to meet the investment targets are more important, he noted.

The lack of progress in implementing reforms to better the ease-of-doing-business indicators, in establishing one-stop service and in removing the bureaucratic hassles will impede private-sector investment, he observed.

The private sector that creates around 95 per cent of the country’s annual jobs is now cutting its manpower to cope with the economic fallout from the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year 21 lakh people join the country’s workforce while only 13 lakh jobs are created.

A large number of unemployed youths seek jobs in the oil-rich Arab countries every year, but these countries too have kept their doors shut to the foreign workers due to COVID-19.

Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies general secretary Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said that no new job was created in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in last five months.        

The Bangladesh Bank in a recent report said that manpower export, which fetched a record remittance of $18.21 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year, was still facing risks due to uncertainties in the global economy.

The First Five-Year Plan was launched in July 1973 and it was followed by a Two-Year Plan in 1978-80.

In 1980, the Five-Year Plan framework was reinstated.

From 2002–03 to 2009-10, a three-year Poverty Reduction Strategy was followed.  

The present government has switched back to the five-year plan strategy after returning to power in 2009.