We are going through an unprecedented health and a resulting economic crisis in Bangladesh as the global coronavirus pandemic has rattled most of the countries in the world.
In this moment of grave crisis, our first and foremost priority is to ensure health and safety of the citizens.
Following examples of other countries of the world, our government has also taken measures by giving certain directives, announcing holidays, encouraging social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve.
The frontline healthcare workers must have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle all the potential patients who show symptoms or are already infected.
The private sector of Bangladesh has also extended their support in this cause. The FBCCI President has announced that they are getting their first consignment of PPE gears soon with the support of their board of directors and the extended network of private sector chambers and associations.
Some of the factories in our ready-made garment sector have also risen to the occasion. They have designed their own international standard hazmat dresses and a collective effort is underway to produce and deliver those to different hospitals and clinics in the country.
Both the bourses of the country – Dhaka Stock Exchange and Chittagong Stock Exchange – will also use their CSR funds to help the neediest populace. Beximco group has contributed $1.8m for PPE for healthcare professionals during this pandemic
In addition to this, the banking sector in the country can play a crucial role. The banks have well-structured CSR programmes. Through these programmes, they can assist the government in upgrading the rural health facilities.
They can also, in coordination with urban and rural level development agencies, help the most marginalised population, for example the daily wage earners whose livelihood will be affected the most if this crisis is prolonged.
The Bangladesh Bank has already taken an expansionary monetary policy by reducing the repo rate by 0.25 percent. It also reduced the CRR significantly and instructed banks not to classify any loans until the end of June.
The ready-made garment sector is the largest industrial sector of the country. By the time of writing this piece, 978 factories reported 831.78 million pieces of orders worth $2.69 billion had been cancelled.
Close to two million workers are affected because of these cancellations. Other export sectors like leather and footwear, pharmaceuticals, backward linkage industries, and IT and ICT sector have all faced cancellation of orders.
We are very thankful to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for announcing the Tk5,000 crore stimulus package for the export sector of Bangladesh. This announcement gives us relief.
Financing from international donor agencies and development partners is also an avenue which can be explored by the government on an urgent basis. The IFC, the World Bank Group, the ADB, the International Monetary Fund, the GIZ and others can be accessed for additional funds to tackle the health and economic risks.
Emergency situations call for innovative ideas. Fiscal support to the small and medium industries is crucial right now and a special "Bangabandhu Bangladesh Bond" can be issued for this purpose.
We, the entire private sector, need to stand by the government in this moment of national crisis. Let us all hope we can come out victorious in our fight against this pandemic.
The author is the chairman of Chittagong Stock Exchange (CSE) and former president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI)