The post-coronavirus world economy might just go downhill. What can Bangladesh do to face the obvious?
The world is in unprecedented economic turmoil. The post-coronavirus would-be recession may surpass the great depression of the 1930s and the turbulent economy after World War II. Now the question is, how will we overcome the crises?
After the coronavirus pandemic, our growing economy may face a tremendous and unimaginable shock. The on-going problems will intensify because of a food crisis, unemployment, liquidity crisis, transportation problems, remittance shortage, negative export position, the shutdown of industries and so on. Are we capable and ready enough to face all these sudden impediments?
We believe we can do it and have the courage to face a tough time. We went through 1971 and came out victorious. But now more than ever, we need to work united – irrespective of the differences in opinions, religions, and political parties.
We know that highly emotional Bangalis sometimes surpass logicality. And most of them are pious. When their strong belief in the afterlife is combined with their emotional nature – instead of weakening, it strengthens them.
And here lies the speciality and uniqueness of the people of Bangladesh. Tough and adverse environment, long-lasting foreign invasion, poverty and exploitation have only made them exceptionally strong in facing challenges. This strength would prove to be useful in facing both economic and social misery caused by the coronavirus.
It is our firm belief that self-reliant people of Bangladesh would fight this crisis back. We will not be broken like the inhabitants of around 200 affected countries including the USA, Italy, the UK, Spain, India, and so on. We were never under any safety-net of the government. However, now we need the government's support and guidelines in proceeding ahead.
What we need to do
It is true that coronavirus has imprisoned us at home. But it also gave us enough time to enrich our potential. We can spend time with our families. We can reflect on our lives and meditate. We can do all the things we never had enough time for.
We need to utilise this time. We need to focus on our children, do some household chores together, and make the ties stronger with our families.
Just as social distancing is a must now, social unity will be a must after the coronavirus pandemic is over. So we need to be frugal in consumption as well. We need to share food and other necessities with our neighbours and people in need.
Mutual respect, sympathy, and affection may protect us from the upcoming catastrophe. We should bear in mind that the coronavirus aftermath may be deadlier than that of wartime. There is no alternative to cooperation and wholehearted support in this distressing time.
What the government can do now
The foremost problem would be a liquidity crisis. People would have a little or no money in such a case. Some dishonest people will spike prices of daily necessities. The government needs to promptly address these areas.
In addition to that, immediate steps should be taken to increase the liquidity before the huge crisis hits the market. The economy needs money to be pumped in at any cost.
It is very important to ensure the supply of goods by maintaining an efficient transportation system all over the country. The government should focus on lessening the bureaucratic complexities while releasing goods from the ports – considering it a wartime necessity to ensure availability of goods in the marketplace. It should be a priority that the prices of daily necessities be kept within the reach of the public.
We need to equally focus on technology and artificial intelligence as the rest of the world – otherwise, we would lag behind.
Small and medium business and industries would need attention and financial support. It is a must to help them survive and maintain their operational costs. Needless to say, their contribution towards reaching the millennium development goals is immensely important for the country.
The government needs to take some steps now. One of them is to contact funding organisations like IMF, World Bank, ADB etc and rich countries for soft loans, aid or FDI. Tightened policies of Bangladesh bank and BIDA should be flexible so that the fund flow at marginal interest rates from foreign organisations can be easier and quicker.
These will help in easing the liquidity crisis and develop the inland industries. The economy now should emphasise on mutual co-operation, not on competition.
China has started relocating industries from their country to where they will have a comparative advantage. We can utilise the opportunity wisely – helping our economy and employment to grow.
Demand for medical equipment will go up worldwide after the crisis is over. We can take the opportunity if we can get ready.
To send back people who returned from coronavirus affected countries will not be easy. Exporting labour will not be the same either. The government has to think ahead of time in this regard. Otherwise, we will face an enormous unemployment pressure, and earning remittance will be severely affected. Training on health safety issues and communication will be a necessity in sending people abroad.
Demand for female and male nurses and trained people in the medical sector will go up – we can use our educated manpower in this field.
This crisis requires worldwide communication – we can use the scope to strengthen our relationships with powerful countries.
By this time, the government has taken initiatives for the stock market. But proper implementation with other proactive measures has to be ensured. Acute liquidity crisis among the investors will push down sales after the market reopens, which may induce another market crash.
We can seek the help of the world's largest and persistent buyers as we always listen to them. We need to convince them to stand by us in the bad times ahead.
I believe that we will stand on our own feet. The sun rises after enormous darkness and big opportunity sparkles after huge disasters. But for that, we need to find the opportunities and act on them.