The Financial Express

The year of 2021, hangover and hopes

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
The year of 2021, hangover and hopes

Almost the whole world has passed 2020 as the most memorable year in the last 2/3 centuries. In its capacity to fill the world population with insidious fears and a feeling of dread centring on a pandemic, the year stands close to the two World Wars. In terms of impact on humans, the Covid-19 pandemic is stronger than the two wars. The pandemic virus has spread invisibly to almost all parts of the globe. Despite imposing of restrictions, even the South Pacific remote islands could not resist the virus' entry. In contrast, many regions during the two wars remained veritably unscathed. Unlike those in the mainstream South Asia, people in many distant lands remained fully ignorant of the world-shaking brutalities --- once in 1914-1918 and the second time in 1939-1945.  A major part of these regions lie in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Compared to even the destructive World Wars, the Holocaust being a focal point, the Covid-19 pandemic this year turned into a near-apocalypse. Despite being branded doomsters, large sections of global experts hear in the present calamity the faint echoes of the great pandemics of the past.

Arriving at the year-end, many people feel like looking back --- only to be bled by the wounds inflicted on humanity by myriad life-threatening hazards. Most of these maladies normally stem from global scourges, and their socio-economic fallout. Few of the regions in the world could manage to escape the onslaught of the dreadful Covid-19 virus. There's frightening news for now; as apprehended by the medical researchers, the pandemic is poised to demonstrate the ferocity of its third wave. Most of the continents are now passing through the second wave of the pandemic. Reports from South Africa have lately informed of a new strain of the pandemic's virus which was detected there. In the context of dreadfulness, this piece of information has been surpassed by the latest development in Britain. Its government warns that a new strain of the corona virus has also been found there. It says the nature of the virus is 'out of control'. It is said to be spreading fast. Against this frightful backdrop, around a third of England's population has entered a Christmas lockdown. Thus, a stringent prohibition on outdoor New Year pageantry and jubilations in the hardest hit countries is foregone conclusion. The banning of incoming British passenger flights by European countries has only added to the grimness of the situation. Many other nations have postponed flight connections with Britain.

With just one week to go, the pandemic-ravaged world is set to enter the new year of 2021. There are few signs that people in any part of the world will have the scope to celebrate the Gregorian New Year's arrival, as they have done in the past. People in a lot of regions have long entered their safe retreats to lament their misfortune. To speak in brief, on the eve of the New Year's start, many countries, irrespective of their socio-economic status, are busy finding ways to keep out of the pandemic's path. Celebrations can't be more important than physical wellbeing. The spread of the new strain of the virus is feared to end up being the prelude to another panicky year in 2021. The worrying news is the vaccine programmes, and the following trials around the world, couldn't yet provide any ray of hope for the common people in the severely affected lands. The corona-vulnerable people in the poorer countries do not feel convinced of major breakthroughs anytime soon.

The emergence of the new strain of the corona virus carries the potential for making a mess of the worsening situation. What distresses the circumspect segments of people is the unabated rise in the corona infections and the number of fatalities. The latest tally of Covid-19 victims across the world stands at nearly 80 million people infected globally; with over 1.7 million of them dead since the first cases were reported in December, 2019. Apart from the USA the highly affected countries at the moment include the UK, France, Germany, Italy and India.

Bangladesh has yet to see an appalling form of the corona outbreak. But there are factors filled with potential for aggravating the situation. In addition to the country's incapability to maintain effective corona-time isolation, it has to keep its entry-points virtually open to the outside world. The largest number of these inbound people comprises unskilled workers from abroad. Many of them are allegedly not properly tested negative. The trend, however, has declined considerably, with the frequency of flights reduced. Viewing 2021 in the context of the year gone by, the coming year doesn't show any noticeable prospects for being any better. The detection of the new strain of the corona virus is feared to create worldwide jitters. On the other hand, in the post-vaccine era, its discriminatory availability might remain a sore point to the poorer countries like Bangladesh.

Amid this bedlam, it is the elderly who'll suffer the most. Throughout the world, the education sector in general --- and the school, college and university level curricular activities in particular, has long been bearing the brunt of the pandemic. With institutions remaining shut, and opening at interludes between the outbreaks, lots of learners began growing an aversion to studies. Face-to-face or physical meetings are increasingly entering the domain of webinars. The practice has been necessitated by the state-imposed imperative of keeping the corona-time social distance. In spite of technological complications, the digital mode continues to dominate the world of views-exchange.

The coming year may not be an exception. It's true the developed countries in general reap the benefits of the digital communication nowadays. In the coming year, the use of the virtual medium in inter-regional communication is set to witness a rise. Corona prompted debacles in business and trade has dealt a blow to the national economies. The digital intervention has come to the economies' rescue after the Covid-19 outbreak. In the coming years, the digitally operated networks are expected to be increasingly integral to global trade. It is already in place. Bangladesh doesn't lag behind. But the country may have to face an adverse situation in international trade if the global pandemic situation doesn't start improving from 2021.

Optimist segments of analysts observe that Bangladesh has lately found its place among the digitally advanced nations. Due to the country's urban areas being covered by submarine cable connections, its trade and business activities now enjoy easy access to these domains in any part of the world. Lately, the government announced its plan for joining the third submarine cable, thus expanding its horizon in the field of digital connections. In spite of the new opening, any distressing outbreak of the corona pandemic in 2021 may thwart the nation's efforts to recoup the losses made in overseas trade the previous year. The successful invention of corona vaccines and the nations' easy access to them are expected to remarkably change the global landscape vis-à-vis the worldwide pandemic trauma in 2021.

For the developing countries, like Bangladesh, piecing together the fragments of a jolted economy may prove herculean. There are, however, escape routes. With the RMG sector being the centre-piece of its export trade, the country's overall economic recuperation is hinged on taking the apparel sector back to its glory days. The task is challenging, as well as easy --- requiring pragmatism and able leadership. Already, amid the volatile situation created in the very early days of the corona outbreak called for huge tasks related to helping the buyers keep confidence in the country's exports.

In order to see a positive outcome in a hopefully pandemic-free world, the nation in the coming year ought to be careful about keeping the RMG sector free of disquiet. Deadly pandemics and wars have repeatedly played havoc with economies. But nations with unassailable spirit have been able to reach the shores after navigating through turbulent seas. The spectre of a third-wave pandemic looms large. As a nation which snatched freedom from brutal enemy forces, Bangladesh cannot give in to the abruptly invasive adversities. 

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