Coronavirus produces new poor
- 77% who were above poverty line slipped below it
- Urban people's income fell 75%, rural people's 62%
- Urban people cut food expenses by 28%, rural people 22%
- Tk11,000 crore needed to support both new and old poor
- Economists recommend spending at least 6% of GDP to support both groups
A total of 3.69 crore new people slipped below the poverty line as their income fell due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey.
The survey was jointly conducted by the Power and Participation Research Centre and Brac Institute of Governance and Development. From April 4 to 12, 12,000 rural and urban families in nine districts were surveyed over the phone.
On Wednesday, the survey results were published at a webinar attended by renowned economists from home and abroad.
Unveiling the survey results, Power and Participation Research Centre Executive Director Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, and Brac Institute of Governance and Development Executive Director Imran Matin said 77 percent of the people who were above the poverty line had slipped below it because of the pandemic.
They said earnings of urban people had dropped by 75 percent, and that of village people by 62 percent, as economic activities came to a halt.
Urban people slashed food expenses by 28 percent, and rural people by 22 percent.
Every month, Tk5,039 crore is needed to support these new poor while an extra Tk4,747 crore is needed for 3.30 crore people who were already poor, the survey said.
It said around Tk11,000 crore is needed to give food and cash assistance to both the new and old poor under the social safety net programmes.
The economists said at least six percent of the GDP would have to be spent on food and cash assistance for these people but the government's coronavirus-related expense in this programme is less than one percent of the GDP.
Professor Rehman Sobhan, chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said people would go to market if they were given money and this would accelerate the economy.
He said how the government's stimulus money could be delivered to people should be focused, adding that the survey results were dangerous.
Professor SR Osmani, economics professor at Ulster University, said the poor should be offered food and cash assistance.
He said economic problems would worsen if their employments dropped or vanished.
"This assistance is not only to keep them alive but it will also accelerate the economy."
Senior Secretary and member of the General Economic Division under the Planning Ministry Professor Shamsul Alam said the poor people should be offered support but the Tk11,000 crore proposal was a very big one.
He said the government was making feasible plans, and the pandemic would be given special consideration in the eighth five-year plan.
Dr Zillur Rahman, who moderated the webinar, said distribution of the government's stimulus had already drawn controversies.
"The policymakers should think more seriously about how to ensure the delivery of the government's assistance to the right beneficiaries in a transparent manner."
Naila Kabeer, professor of gender and development at the London School of Economics, said the development of the next generation would be hampered if the coronavirus-induced uncertainty that women and children had found themselves in was not given special consideration.
Brac Executive Director Asif Saleh said there was no discussion about the poor living outside slums.
"Many of them were forced to leave cities in the initial stage of the pandemic. Now they will also have to be considered when it comes to offering assistance," he added.