Hindsight is a many splendoured thing except it precludes looking ahead. Suffice it to say that Bangladesh, somewhat akin to cricket, is a glorious uncertainty. Economically speaking, the lower-middle income country continues to astound doomsday perfectionists with her enviable Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and record remittances. Health-wise life expectancy has grown and child mortality and post-natal fatality are in an enviable decline. Somewhere, a miracle is happening that we are blinded to by the scourge of statistics, expert opinions and questionable world indicators.
Pessimists point to the number of deaths in road accidents that outweighs Covid 19 deaths. World-wide, as per official figures casualties and infections from the pandemic are comparatively low. Close to $14 billion was dished out by the government in the form of stimulus. Another $17 billion or so has been earmarked for the current financial year. Exports are targeted to grow to $51 billion up from the $45 billion from last year. The main export sector is buoyant about a rapid recovery with advance orders pouring in, some say beyond capacity. The mainstay is a redirection of sourcing from China, India and Myanmar. The government decision to bite the bullet in balancing life and livelihood and allow industries to continue operations in the midst of the crisis, was a successful, calculated risk.
Three and a half million families were provided direct cash. 10 million will receive moneys during Eid-Ul-Azha and another 3.5 million families will get further cash injections. With day-labourers allowed to quietly circumvent the lockdown has helped to supplement their earnings. The lifting of lockdown in the week ahead of Eid-Ul-Azha will pump further money into both rural economy and the lower-level population. Given that the pandemic has swirled out of control, it is pointless to spend money in enforcing ineffective lockdowns. The cost incurred is substantive though not officially quantified. Diverting these funds to sustaining livelihoods is recognising reality. When collateral damage is inevitable it's better to take blow on the chin.
All of this supports resilience, a factor Bangladesh is famed for. Agricultural production continues to return bumper production defying all that nature has thrown in its way. So much so that government procurement targets weren't met and millers prevailed. Higher prices benefit farmers given the cost to the consumer. In a market economy, the highest bidder prevails. Those thrust into unemployment are finding innovation in adversity be it a burgeoning e-commerce phenomenon or other forms. Changes have taken place, at times outside the more narrow and often jaundiced view of the media. Teachers have stopped complaining and taken up new vocations such as selling vegetables, some students are balancing their time by studying on their own and taking to rickshaw pulling. The much maligned policy of allowing legalising undisclosed earnings has given a fillip to a limping real estate sector-another service area. The straight-forward benefit goes to construction workers that were otherwise left in the lurch.
If anything, the privileged section of society has failed. In the first wave any number of organisations relying on donations provided free meals and essentials to the hardest hit. Police and Armed Forces donated from their rations food for the distressed. The Army organised one-item of different essential commodities either at low cost or for free. Tragically, these initiatives were not sustained. The lifting of movement restrictions will encourage holiday-tourism for those that can afford it-and there are many. The spin-off benefit will trickle through to hoteliers and resort owners. Those travelling home for the holidays will find it cheaper what with public transportation, especially trains unlocked. This too, will provide spin-off benefits for transport owners and workers.
Hospitals and clinics may be overwhelmed but their coffers are becoming further enriched as are the oxygen manufacturing plants. Economists have failed us in not surveying these earnings that contribute to what is now the leading contributor to GDP-the service sector.
Looking ahead, investment in the health sector leads to permanent facilities being installed. Nothing is ever enough, but even the smallest progress has to be commended. Timely import of a million tonnes of rice and other essentials will subvert shortages in grain procurement and replenish government stocks and hopefully stabilise market prices. Management theory evolves around value vs volume. That the focus is on volume for now is and should be the approach. Volumes reach larger sections of the populace and in turn add to creation of wealth. One basic law of nature is survival of the fittest. Another is to let nature take its course. Nature is a great leveller.