BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) of BRAC University has recommended to introduce a cash support programme to provide Tk8000 for two crore families each to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BIGD proposed the programme worth Tk96,000 crore – about 3.8 percent of GDP – at a webinar titled "Coping with Covid-19: The Case of Bangladesh" on Tuesday in Dhaka.
The BIGD arranged the event jointly with the General Economics Division (GED) of the planning commission and the International Growth Centre (IGC).
Professor Siddiqur Rahman Osmani of Ulster University presented the keynote on the event and sought for Tk130,435 crore – which is about 5.13 percent of the GDP – to fight Covid-19.
He said, "At least half of the population has faced food insecurity amid the economic shutdown implies 20 million households will need entitlement support. But the number of households needing support will decline when the economy will begin to re-open."
He also suggested Tk10,785 crore for agriculture, Tk17,900 crore for Cottage, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (CMSME) and Tk57,50 crore for large scale industries.
Professor Osmani also recommended increasing government spending on the health sector. He said, "Bangladesh is spending about 0.38 percent of the GDP for the health sector – about 2.99 percent of the national budget."
Per capita government spending for health in Bangladesh is about $6.06, which is lower than that of Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka.
"Government spending for the public health in Bangladesh is far below than Lower Income Countries (LICs) despite the country has achieved the status of the Lower Middle Income Countries (LMIC)," he quoted a report of the World Bank.
Speaking as the chief guest of the event, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government is fighting against Covid-19 considering the realities.
"A hard lockdown could damage human lives in the absence of food that is why the poor people must be allowed to go their works," he said.
"People could lose their patience and it could reduce production. Lockdown has been relaxed considering these issues," said the minister.
Dr Shamsul Alam, Member of the GED, said, "It would be difficult for the government to spend more than five percent of GDP for implementing stimulus package."
As the government's Eighth Five Year Plan is set to go into effect in July 2020, the GED has sought the expertise of Professor Osmani in rethinking priorities and resource allocation currently outlined in the plan.
Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, Dr KAS Murshid, Dr Sadiq Ahmed, Dr Zahid Hussain, and Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya spoke at the event.