HPM Sheikh Hasina on the Driving Seat
Bangladesh has been facing the
COVID-19 outbreak under the leadership of HPM Sheikh Hasina. With a view to tackle the COVID-19
impact on Bangladesh, HPM Sheikh Hasina came up with special directives, policy
actions and a series of multi-sectoral fiscal measures. Moreover, government
has been continuing emergency relief and expanding social safety programs to
facilitate the low-income segment of the population. This bulletin is CRI’s effort to communicate Bangladesh’s story in
dealing COVID-19 outbreak with farsighted policy measures and actions.
Special Directives and Strategic Plan
by HPM Sheikh Hasina
As soon as the pandemic hit Bangladesh, HPM Sheikh Hasina came up with a 31-points directives. The directives were for both health professionals and general people. The civil and military administration, law enforcement agencies ought to enforce physical distancing and nationwide lockdown. HPM stressed on following Standing Orders on Disasters (SOD) - the national disaster management protocol. On relief, the directive was to strategically conduct relief works by focusing on underprivileged people. She directed the farmers to continue food production. Moreover, HPM Sheikh Hasina announced a 4-points strategic plan geared towards economic impact. The programs are: increasing public expenditure, introducing fiscal packages, expanding social safety net programs and increasing monetary supply. Government is increasing public expenditure eyeing increased employment generation. Government is also expanding social safety net coverage to ensure fundamental necessity of the people.
HPM Sheikh Hasina Calls for
Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her article published in World Economic Forum’s website, floated a
five-point proposal to minimize the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. First,
the world will need new thinking on human well-being, tackling inequality,
supporting poor and getting back our economies to pre-COVID levels, she said.
Next, she emphasized a “robust” global leadership from G7, G20 and OECD and
UN-led multilateral system in the second point.
In her third point, she stressed on the need to devise strategies to
adapt to new business norms. She underscored the need for a meaningful global
compact to share burdens and responsibilities in her next point. In the fifth
point, she stressed on the utilization of Fourth Industrial Revolution
technologies to better prepare for the future.
Taming COVID-19: Rapid Public Health
Covid-19 infected patients are
receiving treatment in different government and private hospitals. Flu corners
in separate wards have been set up in hospitals. Currently, there are 500 ventilators
in government hospitals. Process to install 700 more ventilators and 100 ICU in
these hospitals are underway. Government has prepared 601 places for
institutional quarantine across the country. Around 30,000 people can receive
quarantine service through these facilities. There are a total of 7,693
isolation beds in selected medical institutions in 8 divisions. Bangladesh
government is also operating telephone hotlines to offer health advice. As of
April 28, 2020, around 4,000 volunteer doctors are connected in this service.
Around 3.5 million persons have received health advice and Covid-19 primary
screening over hotlines since 8 March 2020. Currently, 17 laboratories in and
outside Dhaka are operational for COVID-19 testing. To date, 3,625 doctors and
1,314 nurses have been trained on providing treatment to Covid-19 infected
patients. With a view to incentivize the frontline fighters of COVID-19
outbreak, government will provide two months’ salary to health professionals. Health professionals will
also get an insurance coverage up to BDT 1 million.
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Stimulus Packages for Keeping the Economy Vibrant
address the impact of COVID-19 outbreak on the economy, government allocated
BDT 956.19 billion under a set of stimulus packages amounting to 3.3% of the GDP. The first
of the fiscal packages, involving BDT 300 billion, will be provided to affected
industries and service sector through banks as low-interest loans. Under the
second package, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), would get BDT 200 billion
working capital. The third package is for enhancing Bangladesh Bank's (BB) Export Development Fund
from $3.5 billion to $5 billion to facilitate raw material import. Under the
fourth package, BB will introduce a new credit facility of BDT 50 billion as
‘Pre-shipment Credit Refinance Scheme’. A BDT 50 billion incentive package is
directed at paying the salaries of export-oriented industries. Another
BDT 50 billion has been allocated to agricultural sector. Government has
already published guidelines to implement the stimulus
packages to the agriculture sector, the cottage, micro, small and medium
enterprises and export-oriented firms.
Scheme for Low-income People
Bank has launched a BDT 30 billion refinance scheme for low-income people which would be disbursed
through the microcredit entities, also known as non-government organizations
(NGOs). Affected farmers and marginalized traders would also be eligible for
the low-cost credit. Under the scheme, 75% fund must go to the low-income group
professionals, farmers and micro businesses hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic,
while the rest 25% is reserved for small entrepreneurs. For an individual, the
borrowing limit from NGOs has been set at BDT 75,000 and the limit for a group
of at least 5 individuals at BDT 0.3 million.
Agriculture and Food Security:
Facilitating the Farmers
Bangladesh agriculture sector will
receive BDT 50 billion crore exclusively for agriculture sector under the stimulus package announced by HPM
Sheikh Hasina. Small and medium farmers in rural areas will reap the benefit of
the package. Moreover, government has increased subsidy amount on fertilizers.
This fiscal year subsidy amount stands at BDT 95 billion. Government has
announced BDT 1.50 billion allocation for seeds and seedlings distribution.
Government has also announced an immediate allocation of BDT 2 billion for
harvest and farm
mechanization during the current harvest season. Farmers of Haor
region are entitled to 70% subsidy and farmers in other regions will receive
50% subsidy on the purchase of farm machinery. Farmers of 7 Haor region
districts faced difficulty in harvesting due to migrant-labor shortage amid
nationwide lockdown. Government directed to ensure normalcy in the
transportation of agricultural goods and agricultural workers.
Emergency Assistance Program Launched
The government has launched a nation-wide general
relief program amid the lockdown enforced by Coronavirus pandemic. So far, rice
has been distributed to 6 million households and BDT 312.4 million cash has
been transferred to 3.5 million households during the ongoing crisis. A total
of 27.7 million people have been reached through the relief program. Under a new innovative scheme,
3.4 million families will receive direct one-off cash assistance. Moreover, the government
will issue 5 million new ration
cards to poor people in urban and rural areas allowing them to buy rice
at a subsidized price. The card holders can buy rice at BDT 10 per kg
(one-fourth of the market price) under a special Open Market Sale (OMS) scheme. Those not
registered on any food aid program will now be eligible for the OMS