The Financial Express

Overcoming health and economic crises  

Published: April 04, 2020 21:43:58 | Updated: April 06, 2020 21:29:29

Overcoming health and economic crises   

The support that has started coming in from both multilateral and bilateral donors at a fast pace to help the country combat the ongoing pandemic does deserve appreciation. According to a report published in this paper, five development partners have so far assured Bangladesh of making available funds worth about $260 million to strengthen its disease control capacity and respond at a fast pace to highly infectious disease like the COVID-19, caused by the new novel Coronavirus.

As of April 03, the World Bank approved a fast-track $100 million financing to help Bangladesh prevent, detect, and respond to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Also this is envisaged to strengthen its national systems for public health emergencies.

Besides, some countries and international agencies have been making available medical equipment and relevant materials on an emergency basis. China, one of the top victims of the pandemic, was the first country to make available medical goods to help beef up Bangladesh's capacity to deal with the virus. 

That the country's capacity to combat any major outbreak of contagious diseases is highly inadequate has come to the fore this time. In fact, the health authorities were clueless about dealing with the crisis. They did not have sufficient number of testing kits, diagnostic laboratories and personal protective equipment (PPEs). Though the situation has improved lately, there is still serious dearth of ventilators and intensive care unit (ICU) facilities.  Under the prevailing circumstances, the availability of funds under the WB's 'fast-response package' to meet emergency medical needs would have helped the government most.

The country like many others is trying hard to respond to health consequences of the pandemic. In addition, there have been sporadic efforts on the part of the government to keep the economy afloat. However, as the situation stabilises, all efforts, naturally, will be focussed on economic recovery. The economy until February last was a roaring one. But with a global recession now brewing in the corner, the country's exports and remittances are poised to suffer a huge setback and the government's revenue receipts set to take a major hit. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) predicts the economy to grow below 4.0 per cent as against its initial projection of 7.5 per cent.

Against all these possibilities, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), Dhaka, one of the leading trade bodies of the country, has put forward a number of suggestions that include formation of a Tk 1.0 trillion fund with the assistance from development partners, including multilateral institutions. It has also suggested the government offer some fiscal and monetary concessions to help businesses tide over the situation. The businesses, naturally, would need support from the government to recoup their losses, but the capacity of the latter to deliver will have to measure up to the task.

Besides, suggestion made by a Dhaka University Economics teacher to delay the Eighth Five-year Plan and devise a two- year recovery plan instead does deserve scrutiny by the government. Everybody needs to keep in mind that the world will not be the same again, at least, for some time after it manages to free itself from the grip of the pandemic. It would certainly need many painstaking efforts to put the world to its old and usual rhythm. 

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