The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector has been ravaged by the two-month shutdown as 41 percent of organisations have shut down because of supply chain disruptions, piling up of and stagnant prices of unsold products.
The sector has lost about Tk92,000 crore – an amount that could build three Padma bridges.
Only 48 percent of the entrepreneurs hope they could be able to sustain nominally even after suffering huge losses during the shutdown caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Experts say general people could not be prevented from coming out due to the lack of an effective lockdown. It may lead to another big jump in coronavirus infection rates in the next few days. In this situation, small entrepreneurs and low-income people are at risk regarding both health and income.
Speakers came up with all these views at a webinar titled "BIDS Critical Conversations 2020: In the Shadow of Covid - Coping, Adjustments, Responses" organised on Wednesday by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
According to four articles presented in the webinar, the poor are the main victims to loss of jobs and incomes and a reduction in salaries due to the Covid-19 fallouts. The income of a family that earns at least Tk30,000 per month has not decreased much.
All the publications further said most of the SMEs will not be benefited from the government-announced stimulus package as only 38 percent of them have access to bank loans. Access to bank loans is even lower for the micro and cottage industries. It will take more than a month for businesses to return to normalcy even if everything is opened.
Experts believe that the country's economy is not likely to turn around quickly. Even, the coronavirus will not allow the country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Monzur Hossain, senior research fellow of the BIDS, presented a paper titled, "Addressing MSMEs Distress in Covid-19 Crisis: Stimulus Package and Policy Responses," and said the SME sector contains 95 percent of industrial units in the country and employs about 10 million workers.
The monthly production of the sector is about Tk40,000 crore, and wage payment is Tk6,000 crore, he also said.
The researcher said he is confused as to how banks will rely on the recommendations of the district committee to identify potential borrowers as only a few from the MSME sector have access to bank loans.
2.5% people have minimum 3 Covid-19 symptoms
About 3.9 percent of the people in the country have at least one symptom of Covid-19 while 2.5 percent have minimum three, according to a research of KAS Murshid, director general of the BIDS, conducted with three co-researchers.
Researcher Nahian Azad Shashi presented the report and said 2.3 percent of respondents among 30,000 said there are some members in their families with at least three symptoms of Covid-19.
About 19.72 percent of people in Chattogram have at least three Covid-19 symptoms while the rate for Dhaka and Khulna is 12.37 percent and 7.22 percent respectively.
Based on the percentages, IEDCR Consultant Dr Mohammad Mushtauq Husain said there could be a new hump in the infection if the public movements are not reduced.
He added that the government's testing capacity is limited to 16,000 only. Not general people but those who need to join a job or go abroad are coming for a Covid-19 test.
Income stopped for 23.2% lower-grade job-holders
The Covid-19 has led to a complete income stop for 23.2 percent of people with below Tk15,000 monthly pay while the salary reduced for around 58 percent. Only 18.51 percent of people are sustaining their regular earnings at this income level.
Income stopped for 6.46 percent of people with monthly income of Tk30,000 or above and reduced for 39.4 percent. Over 53 percent with the higher income level are sustaining their regular income.
Referring to this information, Nahian Azad Shashi said Covid-19 hit the poor people harshly.
It would be difficult to achieve SDGs
The government was on the track to achieve SDGs even with a 5.5-percent of economic growth, said Dr Binayak Sen while presenting a paper titled
"Poverty in the time of Corona: Short-term Effects of Economic Slowdown and Policy Responses through Social Protection".
He also said, after the Covid-19, a sustained 8-percent economic growth could ensure achieving SDGs and poverty eradication, but that is very hard now.
He also said the economy had some dark spots before Covid-19, for example the poverty rate was declining while inequality was increasing.
The cracks are now visible and the rate of the poverty in the country may increase to 25.13 percent this year which was 20.4 percent last year.
Speaking as the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said it is not possible to continue lockdown for long. Therefore, many sectors have been opened on a limited scale. "The decision was correct because it is inevitable that there will be some deaths [from coronavirus]."
He also said that many countries in Europe and America have not been able to prevent mass deaths from corona. "But we are comparatively good. Hopefully, the death toll in the country will decrease further."
Asadul Islam, senior secretary of the planning department, said the government has taken various social, economic and health initiatives to tackle the Covid-19. It is natural that poverty will increase due to coronavirus.
KAS Murshid said many have spoken of strict lockdowns to prevent infection. However, the management of Covid-19 patients is more important than a severe lockdown. The density of the population everywhere must be reduced.
He suggested creating widespread awareness about masks and hand washing. He added that the government should increase its emergency response.