The Financial Express

How Bangladesh can bounce back

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
How Bangladesh can bounce back

Since no vaccine to stop coronavirus is invented till date, the worldmay suffer more, in terms of both loss of lives and socio-economic fallouts. Still, there are positive reports as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom have started human trial of vaccines.And several European countries have decided to lift lockdownsgradually.

Despite being one of the most densely populated countries in the world, Bangladesh is relatively in a better position in terms of loss of lives. However, the efforts that Bangladesh will have to put in to repair the damages being caused by the pandemic will be a mountainous taskahead.

Now, the question arises:How can Bangladesh bounce back with the kind of political setup where most other actors, except the top leadership, show fighting attitude towards addressing the situation? The reports of corruption in providing support to the poor in these difficult times indicate certain crisis in this regard.

The huge economic losses resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak have started to become evident and are further unfolding. A large number of people have lost their jobs, small and medium businesses are struggling to survive;and most people are counting days when things will turn normal.We have reasons to fear it may take years to overcome the socio-economic losses caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Bangladesh's successes in attaining Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and graduating to developing country have been recognised globally. The country was on track to achieve targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But after the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, itsdevelopment journey might not be smooth.

At this stage, it will be difficult for the government to move ahead with mega projectsat projected pace. In fact, it may be essential to transfer some funds from ambitious projects for social welfare purpose. Already a huge number of the poor are struggling to manage their daily meals.

What is also equally concerning is that education may be one of the worst hit areas. With classes and examinations suspended for about two months,schools, colleges and other academic institutes are likely to remain closed till September. But, there is hardly any innovation by relevant ministries to engage students who are mostly spending unproductive time at home and also getting inclined to social media addiction. Rather, smartphone now available to most people could have been used as medium of education for our students.

The ministry of education could have developed some online classes or tutorials engaging the best teachers of the country. Due to suspension in academic activities, many students may be derailed from education and some may be inclined to not-so encouraging activities.

The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed Bangladesh's health system. The entire health system is now busy fighting the Covid-19and curbing infection rate. People with other diseases are facing difficulties in availing their medical services. A large number of Bangladeshis are suffering from different types of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. And such sufferings are not going to be over soon.

Bangladesh has shown remarkable successes in immunsation and reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. But if the current situation continues for a longer period, it will be difficult to retain the success. There are possibilities that adverse impact of Covid-19 outbreak will have spillovereffects on the overall health sector disrupting service deliveryat the people's doorsteps.

Although there is sufficient food stock at the moment, the situation may worsen in the coming months if on-going harvesting of cropsgets affected and normal economic activities are not restored. In the present context, imports of foods are nearly impossible.

It is evident that no sector in Bangladesh will be free from losses caused by Covid-19 outbreak, which also hit hard tourism, transport, entertainment, and the media industry as well. Despite preparations and cautionary measures, authorities are facing diverse and complicated challenges this time around.

Therefore, the government has to play the most important role and the private sector and development agencies should join the efforts to get the country back to the development highway. Winning over the big challenges will not be easy but through an effective plan of action, it is possible to repair the damage.

First, the government should devise a six-month plan of transition to address the coronavirus effects. Within that, bimonthly plans should be implemented meticulously. Secondly, a comprehensive reform programme has to be initiated. Corruption has to be eradicated from everypart of society and the government needs to take stern action in this regard. Measures should be taken to ensure social equity. Thirdly, people should contributeto repairing tasks for the country.

In the meantime, if we ourselves do not apply preventive measures such as physical distancing and handwash to stay safe from Covid-19, there are chances of further spread of the disease. But if we can act wisely, despite all challenges, Bangladesh will surely bounce back.

Ayon Debnath is a development practitioner and currently working at Sightsavers, a UK-based INGO.

[email protected]

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