Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that along with the battle against climate change, the whole world is battling corona virus as well. In this context, she underscored the need for taking an approach of collective responsibility and partnership from every society to fight Covid-19 and its impact on economies across the world.
"Now, coronavirus is challenging our existence. At the current level of globalisation, isolating one country from the rest of the world is not possible, and the isolation policy won't work anymore," she said.
The prime minister made the remarks while inaugurating a virtual conference arranged by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on 'Enhancing regional cooperation in South Asia to combat Covid-19 related impact on its economies' on Thursday evening.
"The world is perhaps facing the biggest crisis in the last 100 years. So, we need to face the crisis together. We need an approach of collective responsibility and partnership from every society," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said we don't know how long the pandemic will last, but it has already affected many economies. "We need to bring economy, business and society on track, support people to get over trauma and fear, and revive vital sectors," she said.
"As the world goes through such a complex scenario, we'll need different kinds of approaches," the prime minister said, placing five approaches.
The world will need new thinking on human well-being, tackling inequality, supporting the poor and getting back economies to pre-Covid levels as poverty and inequality within and among societies increases rapidly, she said. "In the last one decade, we lifted half of our poor out of poverty. Many of them may now slide back."
Sheikh Hasina also underscored the need for robust global leadership from G7, G20 and OECD. "The UN-led multilateral system should step forward. I must commend Prof Schwab for identifying infectious diseases as a key risk in the 2020 Global Risks Report. So, the forum and UN should mobilise and lead governments and global businesses on focused policy discourse. I would be happy to join any such initiative."
Mentioning that they are already witnessing transformation in global businesses, work and manufacturing, she said in post-Covid times, new norms, standards and practices will emerge. "We've already seen that many global brands within supply chains are not acting responsibly. So, we need to devise strategies and practical support measures so that countries like Bangladesh can adapt."
Noting that migrant workers are facing a very difficult situation, including joblessness, which is also risking South Asian economies, the prime minister underlined the importance of a meaningful global strategy to share the burdens and responsibilities.
She said they have effectively used some of the digital tools and technologies like artificial intelligence and mobile phones to trace infections during this pandemic and put emphasis on fast developing innovative solutions in various sectors to better prepare for the future.
Talking about Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina said the country has adopted a policy that focuses on ensuring the GDP growth momentum by gearing up domestic demand, enhancing competitiveness and poverty reduction.
"Our policy mechanisms have focused on ensuring the GDP growth momentum by gearing up domestic demand, enhanced competitiveness and poverty eradication. In this regard, our main interventions will be on increased public expenditure, introduced fiscal packages, expanded social safety net programmes and increased money supply," she said.
Noting that the government has already announced a US$ 11.60-billion package for various sectors of the country to keep the economy moving, the prime minister said the primary focus of this package are the manufacturing and service sectors, agriculture and social safety net facilities. "This support package is equivalent to 3.3 percent of the country's GDP."
As of now, Bangladesh has sufficient food stock. But ensuring food security in case of a prolonged crisis will be a big challenge for all, especially for South Asian countries, she said.
"Our agriculture is being adversely affected due to the disruption in supply chains. Around US$ 3.5 billion has been allocated for agriculture," Sheikh Hasina said.
She further said, "We're going for direct cash transfer to almost 50 million people. Six hundred thousand metric tons of food grains have so far been allocated to help the poor and people of low-income."
The government has also included 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in its overall strategy, the she said.
Stating that the entire world is fighting against an invisible and unknown enemy called Covid-19, she said the first such patient was detected in Bangladesh on March 8. "However, we've taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus from the very beginning of January," she said.
A 41-day holiday is in force bringing almost three-fourths of the country under lockdown, Sheikh Hasina said. "The government measures have keep the fatalities low with 127 deaths and 4,186 infections in the last 47 days."
WEF President Borge Brende delivered the welcome remarks and Regional Director for South-East Asia of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh made a special briefing on the COVID-19 situation at the conference.
Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare of the WEF Arnaud Bernaert provided important insights over the coronavirus situation from the Forum's Healthcare Community.
The participants were members of the Regional Action Group for South Asia who shared their views by participating in the open discussion at the virtual conference.