The Covid-19 global pandemic unleashing a catastrophic health crisis has now (Mid-July) caused more than 520,000 deaths worldwide infecting over 11 million individuals as reported in official estimates by different countries. It continues to ravage global economies with economic activities plunging to historically low levels, generating huge unemployment. While the countries are slowly resuming their economic activities, containing the spread of the virus to reflect and learn lessons while preparing for the next possible outbreaks remains an arduous task.
Bangladesh genuinely faces an uphill battle with obvious gaps in policy-making, coordination and implementation, as infection cases and deaths continue to rise. With numerous challenges ahead, the cover article in this issue of Policy Insights is a collaborative effort by distinguished experts from multiple fields coming together with specific action plans in various fronts to tackle the health crisis, prioritizing containment and ensuring the much-needed healthcare support not only to Covid-19 patients but also others who need medical attention, while addressing the financial, logistical and management issues.
Bangladesh’s economy is starting to recover, after the withdrawal of Covid-19 induced economic shutdown measures. The budget for FY21 is the first set of policy directions to lay the foundations of an economic recovery. One article in this issue discusses the budget in highlighting short-term challenges of rising unemployment in the face of subdued economic activities and shortfalls in revenue mobilization.
According to some estimates, around 20 million people have already become temporarily jobless as a direct fallout of economic slowdown due to Covid-19. The unfolding extraordinary situation requires extraordinary measures and as such the governments’ declared stimulus package, amounting to 3.3% of GDP deserves appreciation. But, significant challenges remain in providing direct support to the many poor households. An article in this issue discusses how reaching out to the poor and needy will need a comprehensive implementation plan and how to design such a system further effectively.
Effective trade policy is the mechanism through which developing economies can leverage the vast global market for exports, job creation, and economic growth. This issue includes an article that highlights the importance of linking the global marketplace with the Bangladesh economy and argues how a robust trade policy, including appropriate tariff and exchange rate regime, will be needed to overcome the challenges inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The RMG industry contributes to more than 80% of Bangladesh’s export earnings, employing millions of workers. This over-dependence on one particular sector has put the overall economy in a vulnerable situation, as highlighted in an article in this issue. There is a need for carefully reviewing various challenges facing the sector and considering pragmatic policy options to effectively combat those. Another article provides further insights into the overall export prospects amidst the fall in global demand for traded goods and services. It argues that Bangladesh should be strategic to use its policy options to overcome the challenges.
This issue of Policy Insights also includes an article that uses a novel approach in departure from the traditional methodologies in assessing socio-economic effects of Covid-19. It integrates the concept of the generational economy with the National Transfer Accounts data to look beyond the impacts on macro and sectoral indicators.