How three financial impacts of Covid-19 could spell danger for Bangladesh

11 Aug 2020 1:30 PM
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In mid-June, the IMF in a region focus article on Bangladesh said that the financial impact of Covid-19 has especially been felt in three primary areas: a fall in remittances; a decline in RMG exports; and a drop in domestic monetary activities.

Stories of how Bangladeshi migrant employees experienced their lives turned upside down by the pandemic have got regularly made the news headlines of late. Hundreds have lost their careers and many have been deported. Yet, defying expectations and as opposed to most other economic indicators that will be in no cost fall, remittance somehow strike an all-time high of USD 18.2 billion in the recently concluded fiscal 12 months.

This is somewhat baffling as there was absolutely no good reason for remittance to suddenly go up in June. The only logical description, according to industry experts, is that persons are sending whatever money they had preserved up abroad as they are having to leave their web host countries and go back to Bangladesh. Once this rush of cash subsides and increasingly more people return house, remittance, a major pillar of our overall economy, could suffer severely.

Garment exports fell 18.12 percent year-on-year to USD 27.94 billion in FY2019-20. As it makes up about 84 percent of our total national exports, total exports also fell 25.99 percent short of its total annual target of USD 45.50 billion. This is another exemplory case of why we have to include diversified our exports basket way back when, as gurus suggested for decades. However, since we happen to be in the position we happen to be in, it is necessary that people support our garments sector to survive this crisis.

There may be one positive in the quantities. Bangladesh's garments exports to its solo largest apparel export vacation spot, the united states, declined by 12.50 percent year-on-year to USD 2.32 billion between January and May this year, according to the US Office of Textiles and Outfits data-whereas China's declined by 43.87 percent year-on-year to USD 7.66 billion; India's declined by 23.00 percent to USD 2.79 billion; and Mexico's by 31.32 percent to USD 1.26 billion. Outperforming those countries will take resilience, in fact it is possible our RMG sector does have what it needs to recover quicker in comparison to various other countries. But that is in the long-run.

Western economies aren't expected to recover soon which is the perfect time to be diversifying our overseas markets. Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Center for Policy Dialogue, suggests Bangladesh should try to increase its share of the Asian industry. China has allowed duty-free service for 97 percent of Bangladeshi goods. Bangladeshi shipment (led by garments) to India was a lot more than USD 1 billion this past year and crossed that tag to Japan in FY2018-19.

Making our trade policies better is another major to restoration. One challenge for the reason that department may be the classic circumstance of anti-export bias. Because we've huge import tariffs on goods we're able to export, domestic makers prefer to market their items within the country for higher prices in the absence of competition from international sources. This is reducing exports and increasing domestic prices. Therefore, the federal government should set its trade policies in such a way which makes exports and domestic revenue equally lucrative.

Because most Bangladeshis are still comparatively poor, despite GDP per capita rising in recent years-a large amount of it being skewed by the rich getting richer-their consumption beyond necessity goods continues to be somewhat limited. And in instances of crisis, that rings especially true. On the other hand, most of the intake of the richer segments of culture depends on informally employing the poorer segments for services-as maids, chauffeurs, etc.

The latter has taken a significant hit because of the pandemic, as the richer segment of society has scale back on hiring part-time cooks, maids, etc. to keep public distancing with the "unwashed masses". In line with the Bangladesh Bureau of Figures (BBS), 85.1 percent of our workforce are used in the informal sector, that's a lot more than 50 million people. And it is nowadays estimated that the pandemic has still left 80 percent of them unemployed. So, on the main one hand, domestic intake has taken a major strike, while on the different, we've mass unemployment decreasing the disposable profit of poorer persons to near zero, which is then deflating domestic consumption even more.

Previous month, the World Lender projected in a report that over the Asian region, pandemic mitigation measures will severely hinder consumption and services activity, while high uncertainty about the pandemic will constrain personal investment. None of the is good news for raising domestic consumption any time in the future. The WB as well warned that there surely is a risk that the pandemic will result in a long-lasting go up in poverty, especially in low-money countries. And Bangladesh has recently started experiencing that.

A study conducted in-may by Bangladesh Institute of Production Studies (BIDS) found an impressive 16.4 million persons sliding below the poverty collection as a result of pandemic. Around 50 percent of these reported a decline in profit, while over 20 percent of people who had monthly earnings of below Tk 15,000 before stated that they no more had any revenue. Among the persons earning significantly less than Tk 11,000 per month, 57 percent said they had no income, 32 percent experienced a decrease in earnings, and no more than 11 percent said their income got remained secure. In the same month, a report done by Brac revealed that about 36 percent metropolis dwellers had misplaced their careers and 3 percent didn't receive salaries despite having careers. And there is little doubt that things haven't fared any better since that time.

Therefore, all three elements the IMF is concerned about are resulting in a couple of things: i) mass unemployment; and ii) increased poverty. While relief packages are essential to ensure that several people usually do not starve to loss of life, the federal government has to begin getting ready to go further.

Creating employment-besides addressing the pandemic via the healthcare area of it-is the largest have of the hour; probably not at this time, but soon enough. Even so, formulations of different strategies that may achieve that must start immediately.

Much has already been said about the "jobless growth" we'd been experiencing prior to the pandemic hit. And there were serious worries about the actual fact that Bangladesh was failing woefully to create enough jobs because of its people. Likewise, various solutions to the situation of joblessness were offered. Plus they still apply and should be implemented-even extra urgently. And if we seem close enough, a lot of those complications are systematic, and can require government reforms.

Sadly, the political will for those reforms was previously absent. But nowadays the situation could acquire to a point had been mass unemployment and poverty-due to previous systemic challenges and corruption and issues brought forth by the pandemic-could commence endangering our complete social structure. That is something the authorities should recognise.

Throughout history, great cultural upheavals have occurred over and over when unemployment and poverty reached a crucial stage. There is no guarantee that this crisis will not force us over the advantage. That is why policymakers ought to be very careful and collect up the political will to help make the necessary adjustments that these were unwilling to create before. And also make special arrangements because of this particular crisis that people are in.