The ongoing crisis may deepen and the economic recovery and improvement of people's lives may be hampered greatly until the government-announced stimulus package reaches all Covid-19 affected sectors, speakers said at a virtual discussion on Thursday.
The discussion was the third episode of the series programme being organised in Dhaka on the government's different stimulus packages taken up to face Covid-19 shocks as well as for the recovery of an inclusive economy.
Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, senior research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said only 33% of the poor have been brought under the social safety net programme.
Meanwhile, 20% of the Covid-affected are not poor but many do not have jobs. And, they are moving towards poverty.
More than 17 million people are newly added to the list of the poor. Bringing them under the stimulus package is a big challenge, he also said.
"As the infection did not increase much in Bangladesh, our economic activities started quickly, although it was risky," he continued.
However, the government should create a real database for the implementation of various programmes such as Amar Gram-Amar Shohar, Kormotho, and Sudokkho alongside VGD, VGF, year-long OMS, he suggested.
While presenting the keynote paper, Senior Secretary of Finance Division Abdur Rauf Talukder said cash assistance has been provided 100% to elderly, widows and destitute women in 112 upazilas. In the remaining upazilas, this allowance has been given at 30%.
He also said another 1.1 million people would receive cash assistance in January next year.
Dr Sajjad Zahir, executive director of Economic Research Group, said the issue of providing 100% allowance should not be limited to 112 upazilas only but be spread to all 492 upazilas.
It needs effort to make the local market more dynamic at this moment. Imports and local production need to be integrated through technology, he observed.
Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Nihad Kabir said small and medium enterprises are not yet fully operational. Although the sector gathered some pace in June-July, the second phase, especially in November, saw a decline again.
Although 70% of these enterprises are active now, the demand for their products is low, he added.
Only 40% of the incentives allocated for SMEs have been implemented. The package implementation needs to be accelerated, he said.
H E Rensje Teerink, ambassador and head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said many workers are suffering due to problems created in the global demand and supply chain and Bangladesh is no exception.
Incentive programmes need to be implemented to keep the social protection system in order, he viewed.
Abdur Rauf Talukder said, to ensure expansion of social safety net and people's food security, the government has implemented various programmes, including building houses for the landless, cash support, safety net programmes for export-oriented factory workers, subsidies in agriculture, farm mechanisation, free food distribution and supply of Tk10-a-kg rice.
With reference to the IMF data, he noted Bangladesh's economy is recovering faster than Japan's and Indonesia's.
Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said tackling Covid-19 has become much easier for the government now because it has already taken steps like graduating to LDCs, facilitating Ease of Doing Business, working for SDG targets, and continuing the works undertaken on the occasion of the Mujib Year.
Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Tajul Islam said a special package of around Tk1.22 lakh crore has been announced to effectively address the crisis caused by the coronavirus and bring back the trend of national prosperity by eliminating the virus' detrimental effects on the economy. Its implementation is still underway.