Bangladesh’s journey in the post-independence period was tough. Bangladesh inherited a war-hit poor economy in 1971. Despite limited resources, Bangladesh has made spectacular economic progress over the last five decades. The GDP growth rate has reached an impressive record level. Per capita income has also risen steadily. Its poverty slashing performance is among the best in the world. The country has achieved near self-sufficiency in food production for its population of 170 million. The country now even shoulders the burden of the world’s largest refugee population of over one million Rohingya fleeing persecution in neighbouring Myanmar, said ICCB President Mahbubur Rahman while presenting the Executive Board Report of ICC Bangladesh for 2020 in its Annual Council held virtually in Dhaka on 11 July.
COVID-19 has, with alarming speed, created not only a global economic crisis but the loss of millions of lives globally. This has led to steep recessions in many countries. It has also had devastating effects on women, the young, the poor, people employed informally, and those working in contact-intensive sectors, ICCB President noted.
In Bangladesh, according to experts, not everyone has benefited equally from the nation's impressive growth and development because of rising income and wealth inequality. Another challenge is the heavy concentration of economic activity in big cities like Dhaka and Chottagram, resulting in a huge rural-urban divide and increased urban poverty. The biggest challenge for Bangladesh is how the country ensures that the fruits of growth and development reach people at the bottom of the economic pyramid, the report added.
Referring to a recent study, the Executive Report mentioned that a staggering 96 per cent of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Bangladesh lost income during the Covid-19 pandemic. MSMEs in the country reported a median loss in business of 82 per cent during the “national holidays” and customer footfall reduced by an average of 67 per cent. However, Bangladesh, which weathered the pandemic better than most economies in the sub-region, will continue to grow strongly as exports pick up.
The recent upsurge of pandemic waves in India, which started in March 2021, has caused unprecedented and alarming infection and death. The Indian virus has also spread in the neighbouring countries including Bangladesh as well as in the UK.
Unfortunately, vaccine producing countries are reluctant to allow the production of vaccines in other countries. ICC Paris has been trying to impress upon the G-7 countries to make vaccines available free of cost to the poor countries of Asia and Africa. G-7 leaders are pledging to donate hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries around the world. But the question is against 7.9 billion people in the world the quantity is how much significant?
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted education worldwide. Schools were closed to varying degrees across developing Asia—in a quarter of the region’s economies, schools were closed for 200–300 days, and in another fifth for a year or more. Only a handful of economies managed to keep schools open continuously. Remote learning strategies were deployed in most economies to keep students learning. But many students are constrained by access to resources like computers and the internet. This has limited their ability to learn when at home.
Learning losses will substantially reduce future productivity and earnings. Estimates show that students affected by school closures stand to lose an average of $180 or a 2.4 per cent decline in expected annual earnings. The present value of these future earning losses adds up to an estimated $1.25 trillion for developing Asia, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of the region’s GDP in 2020.
According to the World Bank latest report, Bangladesh’s resolving longer-term structural challenges could accelerate the post-COVID-19 recovery. Reform priorities include diversification of exports beyond the RMG sector, deepening the financial sector, improving urbanization, and strengthening public governance. Addressing infrastructure gaps would accelerate growth and reduce spatial disparities in opportunities across regions and within cities.
The Bank has further observed that addressing vulnerability to climate risks would support the resilience of economic development to future shocks. Pivoting towards green growth could support the sustainability of development outcomes for the next generation. With the right policies and timely action, Bangladesh can accelerate its recovery from the economic downturn and continue to progress towards upper-middle-income status.
ICC Bangladesh believes that the above observations made by the World Bank are very crucial for Bangladesh to ensure sustainable development, poverty reduction and ensuring health care for all.
Among others, ICC Bangladesh Vice Presidents Rokia A. Rahman and A. K. Azad; Syed Manzur Elahi, Chairman, Apex Footwear Ltd.; Mr Md. Jashim Uddin, President, The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FBCCI); Mr Rizwan Rahman, President, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI), Mr Mahbubul Alam, President, Chittagong Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCCI); Mrs Rupali Chowdhury, President, Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI); Sheikh Kabir Hossain, President, Bangladesh Insurance Association (BIA); Mr Faruque Hassan, President, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA); Mr Mohammad Ali Khokon, President, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA); Mr Mohammad Hatem, First Vice President, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BKMEA), ICCB Executive Board Members: Mr Abdul Hai Sarker; Mr Aftab ul Islam; Mr Kutubuddin Ahmed; Mr Md. Fazlul Hoque; Mir Nasir Hossain & Ms Simeen Rahman; Mr Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, Chairman, ICC Banking Commission and CEO, Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC); ICCB Members: Mohammad Fazlul Azim, Managing Director, Azim Group; Mr Md. Mahbub Ur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) Ltd.; Syed Waseque Md. Ali, Managing Director, First Security Islami Bank Ltd.; Syed Mahbubur Rahman, Managing Director & CEO; Mutual Trust Bank Ltd.; Mohammad Shamsul Islam, Managing Director, National Housing Finance and Investments Limited; Tanvir Ahmed, Managing Director & CEO, Sheltech Ceramics Ltd.; Rubaiyat Jamil, Managing Director, ICE Technology; Md. Abdul Jabbar, Managing Director, DBL Group; Dr Rubana Huq, Managing Director, The Mohammadi Limited; Tahrin Aman, President, Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI); Anis A. Khan, Advisor to the Board, Tyser Risk Management Bangladesh Limited (TRMBL); Mohd. Arshad Ali, Managing Director, The Merchants Limited; Asif Ibrahim, Vice Chairman, Newage Textiles Ltd.; R. Maksud Khan, Chairman, Bengal Fine Ceramics Limited; Syed Ali Jowher Rizvi, Managing Director, Summit Alliance Port Limited; Md. Abdul Jabbar, Managing Director, DBL Group; K A M Majedur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer, A. K. Khan & Company Ltd., Ataur Rahman, Secretary-General, ICC Bangladesh & Shamim Ahmed, Deputy Managing Director, Mercantile Bank Ltd. attended the meeting.