Business leaders, economists and journalists have backed reopening factories and businesses – particularly export-oriented, micro, cottage, small and medium ones – at least in phases after ensuring necessary safety measures amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
They suggested forming a taskforce to take sector-wise decisions in this regard.
The recommendations were made at a discussion organised by the country's apex trade body, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) on Saturday.
Leaders from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and other different trade organisations took part in the discussion.
They said that industries have to be reopened gradually to save the economy and the livelihood of tens of thousands of workers.
The business leaders said the government has to move forward after analysing the decisions being taken by Bangladesh's competitors such as China, Vietnam, India and Cambodia on reopening their export-oriented industries.
They appreciated the stimulus package declared by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to face the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Salman F Rahman, adviser to the prime minister on private industry and investment, said at the FBCCI discussion that factories and businesses have to be reopened in phases considering the reality, to save the economy.
"We have to decide on reopening factories and businesses after thoroughly analysing the possible losses to our economy as well as our health risks," he added.
He said, "The entire world is at risk. Countries like Germany and France are slowly reopening their major industries despite being under coronavirus risk. We also have to take steps through FBCCI after reviewing the conditions of different sectors."
Salman F Rahman, who is also the vice-chairman of the Beximco Group, said that the FBCCI has to prepare a guideline on this, and hand it to the government.
FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Fahim moderated the discussion. He said the country's apex trade body had been working with the finance and commerce ministries, the prime minister's office, Bangladesh Bank and different business organisations from the beginning to tackle the coronavirus fallout.
"The government is working with the World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation and other organisations on how to reopen factories gradually after complying with possible health protocols," Fahim added.
Business leaders and other speakers at the discussion emphasised the need to remove difficulties in transportation of food and agricultural products.
They stressed the need to make the supply chain operational to keep the prices of essential commodities stable during the holy month of Ramadan.
BGMEA President Rubana Huq said they had a demand for reopening 865 garment factories. Mentioning that they faced order cancellations of more than $3 billion, she said, "We are under pressure to reopen factories. Many factories have orders in hand."
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, said it is important to divide the risky industries and areas of the country by identifying those with red, yellow and green marks.
"In that case, a health protocol has to be prepared along with FBCCI, BGMEA and other sectors, and then a decision has to be taken on reopening factories," he added.
He appreciated the stimulus packages that the government has so far declared, but said that they were not adequate. "It must be increased," he emphasised.
Former FBCCI presidents Mir Nasir Hossain, Matlub Ahmed and AK Azad, The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam, The Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, Editor-in-chief of Ekattor TV Mozammel Babu and Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta, among others, spoke at the discussion.