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The Financial Express

Getting out of the new normal

| Updated: January 25, 2021 21:47:55


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Getting out of the new normal

History is replete with pandemics and their dreadful consequences. But in recent memory, any other pandemic of the Covid-19's scale and deadliness is quite unheard of. Modern science, despite its advancement in medicine has found itself inadequate to come up with an early and effective response to the virus. As such, it is not surprising that the appearance of a second wave of the pandemic and along with it yet another of its more contagious variant has begun to rage through the UK, Europe as elsewhere. Understandably, it has given rise to fresh concerns: will the vaccines that have generated so much hope be finally able to defeat the pandemic?

The question is existential because on having a right answer to it depends how the nations are going to plan their future. Will life and business continue to be lived and transacted respectively in its present manner, dubbed the 'new normal'? Or will the pre-pandemic order soon return?  Evidently, the pandemic has already slowed down the economies globally and locally. Bangladesh has so far managed, particularly, the economy, rather commendably in the face of the challenges thrown by the pandemic. To cushion the economy from the sudden shutdown shocks, the government spent TK 727.5 billion that covers financial stimulus for businesses as well as social safety programme for society's vulnerable section. But still, according to some economists, some 59.5 million people have become poorer due to income loss. Of them, 2.5 million have joined the category of the extreme poor. The poverty rate, which was 24.3 per cent in 2016 has gone a few notches upward to 35 per cent. The income inequality in society measured by Gini coefficient may have in consequence further increased from 0.48 in 2016 to 0.52, a noted economic think tank holds. In fact, the present increase in income gap is due more to the rise in pandemic-induced poverty than to the rich getting richer. Overall, loss of income opportunities including job-loss has pushed more people into poverty.

Poverty means loss of people's purchasing power, a situation that translates into decrease in demand for consumption of goods. That means, to regain the economy's pre-pandemic pace, the government will be required to give more attention to mitigation of poverty. At the same time, the government should adopt a more progressive taxation policy for a fairer redistribution of national wealth. That would go a long way towards reducing income disparity. But the success of all such government efforts is inextricably linked to how fast the nation is able to bring the pandemic situation under control. Now that vaccine is becoming available, it is believed that the upcoming anti-Covid-19 immunisation programme would be a leap forward in the nation's fight against the pandemic. However, all depends on how efficiently, free from corruption and nepotism, the vaccination drive is run. What is to be noted that there is no reason to assume that the general public is already mentally prepared to get the jabs. So, raising their awareness level about the safety and usefulness of the vaccine will remain a necessary part of the whole immunisation exercise.

Last but not least, the vaccine is still not the final answer to the pandemic. So, under no circumstances, observance of the basic health guidelines like washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distance should be relaxed. Until, at least, the condition of 'herd immunity' is reached.

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