Could we imagine Ramadan has begun with shopping centresclosedand flocks of desperate shoppers quarantined separately at home? Who foresaw no official or political Iftar party, no invitation from friends and relatives,no new trend of Sahri party,or even no purchase of Iftar items from the streets, would be this year's new normal?
All such increasing activities over the decades may have defined EidArthaniti(the economy of Eid festival) as efforts are made to estimate the amount of money that changed hands, for the purpose of shopping, and spending during the Ramadan until the day of the Eid-ul-Fitr. Now, it's all about losses people count and regretfor, the moment the Covid-19 haunts them. And all those who market this economy do not see much encouraging news amid a continued shutdown to protect public health, first.
The size of the EidArthanitimay have been in the range of Tk300 billion this year,if we add GDP-like growth to unofficial estimates. The amount of money that is transacted in around 40 days may be even higher. Some are forced to make due payments;certain money is utilised for purchasing essential and reusable things;and a huge cash earned through hard labour at home and abroad also comes to the marketon this occasion. That's not all, however.
Amassive amountof easy money is spent by family members of the moneymakers.These shoppers outshine the middle class men and women while visiting luxury, brand shops. We in Bangladesh still see a competition among all strata of people to buy before the Eid,a shopping spree that has given rise to the vibrantEidArthaniti.It comprises not only sales and purchase of new dresses and ingredients of foods of the festival but also expenses of partying, eating, decoration, renovation, donation and presentation, not to mention a long list of necessary items.
This year is, needless to say, different but none loves to face the real-life consequences of any crisis like this pandemic. When all are not equally sensitive to collective suffering, some constantly dream of making material gains.
If one's spending is income for another,what's the outcome of failure to spend that money? Understandably, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, shop owners, small traders and vendorswould miss selling bonanza while informal wage earners lose their expected income.Bribe earners,extortionists and beggars, too, won't earn much this time.
Salaried people, both public servants and private jobholders, would hopefully draw Eid bonus.All fixed income group people may have to spend money to meet their various needs before Eid, even if they can't join typical Eidshopping.
The amount that may actually be saved in absence of normal sales and purchase during the lockdown is the easy money,usually spent on lavish Eid shopping and partying,and,maybe in some cases, charity doled out during the Ramadan.
If that amounts to half the size of the EidArthaniti,that perhaps remains mostlyunspent. Unofficial estimates suggestmore than 50 per cent of the banknotes worth Tk 1.67 trillionare neither deposited with banks, nor circulated in the market.
Theeasy money, earlier spent for Eidshopping and pre-Eid activities,is unlikely to come to the shop-owners' coffers this year if the lockdown prolongs. The money saved would be enough to supporting millions during the crisis,and buy some satisfaction for the fortunate ones.
If the state authorities want to bring such money - be it from iron safe or foreign banks-to the help of the commoners hit by the Covid-19, new strategies and incentives need to be discovered.
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