The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic on March 11 this year, which has now spread to 170 countries and territories and infected over 330,000 people.
This number does not adequately show the scale and magnitude of this global crisis, which is not only related to public health but also to the health of the global economy, said a press statement issued by the International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh (ICCB) on Monday afternoon.
“Economists are grappling and trying to predict the aftermath of this massive disaster,” said the statement. “No one knows exactly what will come tomorrow and thereafter and how the society, government, healthcare and the economy will change.”
Signed by Mr Mahbubur Rahman, president of ICC Bangladesh, it also said: “It is obvious that the marginal and growing economies will be severely affected. Therefore, it is of great concern for Bangladesh as destinations of more than 70.0 per cent of the country’s total export are USA, UK, Canada and EU countries.”
The statement mentioned that Bangladesh’s export earnings fell by 4.80 per cent in the first eight months of the current fiscal year (FY20), to $26.24 billion from $27.56 billion in the same period of the past fiscal year.
It also expressed concern that this downward trend may exacerbate in the coming months in the face of wholesale cancellation of export orders.
“On the other hand, China is Bangladesh’s largest trading partner and the highest contributor to its supply chain, which feeds into both export and import production,” the statement added.
“Thus, Bangladesh’s economic activities may hinder because of direct impact on production, supply chain and market disruption as well as impact on firms and financial markets,” continued the ICCB statement.
It also expressed concern that the financial sector, specifically the banks in Bangladesh, can be the most affected and Bangladesh’s remittances are likely to slow down.
“It is still too early to properly assess what damage the virus will have on the Bangladesh economy, since the situation is evolving every day, economic estimates can only provide a magnitude of the impact,” said the statement.
“The actual ramification will depend on the extent of the spread and length of the duration of the outbreak and how quickly policymakers can take action to mitigate the health and economic damage,” it added.
Against the backdrop, ICC Bangladesh believes the country is in the danger of not responding promptly and robustly enough to the impending challenges.
“Therefore, there is a pressing need for our government and business to agree on an overarching policy framework in the face of growing uncertainty and volatility,” said the president of ICCB in the statement. “We are resolute in our believe that only coordinated action will be effective in tackling a threat that, by its very nature, knows no borders.”
“We, therefore, urge the policy makers to take the lead in bringing both public and private sector leadership together to seek this outcome,” said Mr Mahbubur Rahman in the statement.
“Bangladesh in the past has demonstrated its ability and resilience in combating the aftermath of a natural calamity and we hope we shall be able to overcome this impending danger together with courage and fortitude,” the statement added.