It is not the financing, but the poor condition of health logistics and infrastructure that has now become the main concern of the country in its fight against the deadly coronavirus disease.
A senior economist expressed the concern, adding that COVID-19 testing and detection measures need to be rigorous now.
He said everything is still Dhaka-centric. So it will be very difficult to contain the spread of the virus in different parts of the country.
Dr Zaid Bakht, a former research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), made these observations while talking to the FE on Tuesday.
“The first priority is to save human lives,” he said. “Without taking adequate and rigorous measures, we may not be able to contain the spread of the virus.”
Dr Bakht was of the view that the situation in Bangladesh is gradually becoming like that in Italy, Spain and the United States of America (USA).
“These countries did not consider COVID-19 as a serious threat at the initial stage. So it has become very tough for them to contain the spread of the deadly virus,” he added.
He pointed out that allowing thousands of non-resident Bangladeshis (NRB) to return from Italy and other countries and then to move freely increased the risk.
“Long public holiday and social distancing may now help contain the spread of the virus to some extent,” he opined.
He also said it needs to be observed whether the rise in temperature plays any role in improving the situation.
Focusing on the economic fallout from COVID-19, the senior economist mentioned that the global economy is already in recession and it may turn into a depression.
“Bangladesh is also not immune from the global economic slowdown,” he added.
“Though China is now trying to recover slowly after absorbing the coronavirus shock, it will take at least six months to one year to recover for the US and European economies provided that the spread of COVID-19 is contained within a short period of time,” he added.
Dr Bakht, also chairman of Agrani Bank, said that there are two main problems for Bangladesh in the current situation.
“Due to the lockdown, there is already a big dislocation in economic activities and supply chains have also been disrupted,” he explained.
“Though the government has assured people that there is enough food in stock, delivery mechanism is a big challenge now,” he argued. “Our past experiences in this regard are not very good.”
Dr Bakht also said that a large number of low-income and poor people are already in trouble as their sources of income are snapped.
“To support them, social safety net programmes should be immediately put in place,” he suggested. “The Prime Minister has already mentioned this.”
The economist also mentioned that as every sector of the economy is facing disruption, they are now demanding support.
“But financing ability of the government to support all sectors for an unlimited period of time is very limited,” he observed.
“Nevertheless, quantitative easing or channelling cash to the production sector cannot be avoided,” he added, acknowledging that there is a risk of inflation as well as misuse or misappropriation of these funds.
“Extra caution is needed so that the money reaches the needy properly, which is a herculean task,” he added.