Coronavirus risks pushing an incredible number of Bangladeshis back to poverty

23 May 2020 10:46 AM
Shahidul Islam, a poor farmer in Bangladesh's western district of Natore, called a hotline last month for a food handout. The request transpired very badly whenever a senior local official -- who also is one of the ruling Awami League -- took it as an individual smear. His response was to assault the peasant -- a by no means isolated incident.

Bangladesh hasn't escaped the economically disruptive COVID-19 pandemic which has upended health care systems all over the world and claimed over 280,000 lives. The South Asian country has already established nearly 15,691 verified cases and 239 noted deaths because the first case was reported there on Mar. 8.

On Mar. 26, Bangladeshi authorities locked down 75% of the united states in a bid to contain COVID-19. This immediately threw some 13 million persons out of work with no fallbacks. The government relief program possesses provided rice at only $0.12 per kilogram, but desperately hungry people have already been attacking the relief convoys.

Other people who asked for food handouts also suffered misfortunes, and some journalists who covered the misappropriation of food aid were attacked. Police agencies meanwhile proceeded to go after a huge selection of elected officials, ruling party members and suppliers for pilfering the cheap rice meant for the indegent. By late April, the Press Infomation Department explained that 35 million people possessed received food relief, and that cash transfers to 15 million were approaching.

In an already threadbare environment, frontline health workers are battling the condition with insufficient supplies and equipment. The exceptionally densely populated country is home to 170 million people, a large proportion Muslim, a lot of whom reside in poverty. Bangladesh is also rated the 14th most corrupt among 180 nations surveyed by Transparency International. In this placing, food security and income management have grown to be more pressing issues than the spread of COVID-19.

Vexed by the extent of the irregularities even by simply members of her have party, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sidelined ministers and participants of parliament, and assigned major civil servants to cure issues in every the country's 64 districts. The Dhaka Tribune newspaper praised her as "a lone warrior in the fight coronavirus."

Hasina's misgivings were fully justified found in the view of Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, a think tank in Dhaka. Others will be less convinced, incorporating Ali Riaz, a professor of political science at Illinois State University in the U.S. He doubts the primary minister's admonishments and interventions can "completely prevent the theft."

Economic damage

Bangladesh's problems exceed poor governance, you need to include the uneven distribution of industry. The country's $300 billion-plus economy is dependent precariously on garments and textiles, which account for almost 12% of gross domestic product and 84% of exported products. The apparel sector, second in size simply to China's, is currently deeply troubled.

"The impact of the pandemic has got been apocalyptic," Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told the Nikkei Asian Review. "We are considering six months of business becoming dwarfed by this pandemic to unimaginably lowered scales, job losses, and an inflated burden on the shoulders of the entrepreneurs," she said. Garment exports noticed a drastic decline in April, falling to $0.38 billion from $2.26 billion month on month.

The industry employs 4.1 million workers, mostly female, and was forced to cease functions during the government-ordered lockdown. Pushed by various garment market lobbyists who feared orders could possibly be diverted to Vietnam, a large number of attire factories reopened on Apr. 26, flouting concerns about transmission of the virus.

Most western high-street retailers selling Bangladeshi attire demand deferred payment as high as 180 days, even though factories carry a good raw material liability of practically $2 billion. "With no apparent visibility of orders to arrive, goods trapped in foreign ports, and buyers canceling finished goods, we have no assurances that people depends on," Huq told Nikkei. The sector which has lengthy been the major manufacturing employer in Bangladesh is normally teetering on the edge of a crisis.

Foreign remittances, the second major driver of the economy, are also threatened. This past year, over 10 million Bangladeshis doing work overseas sent home a lot more than $18 billion -- about 6% of GDP. With the virus and collapsing oil prices, the Universe Bank expects remittances to fall again over 20% to about $14 billion this season. The International Monetary Fund provides forecast that Bangladesh's GDP growth will plunge to 2% this fiscal year, its deepest dive in decades.

The reduced progress and businesses damaged by the virus could force millions back to poverty. Since 2000, a lot more than 25 million people have already been lifted from the classification, but 25 % of Bangladeshis stay severely impoverished.