Experts recommended hard lockdown if the coronavirus situation worsens
As the country reopened after the two-month-long lockdown, business leaders and economists have recommended imposing a hard lockdown for a short period if the coronavirus situation worsens, to get a better result in future economic endeavours.
The experts said we are not in a position to think about economic growth now and the priority is to ease the lockdown while ensuring public health safety.
They came up with the observations at a dialogue on the roadmap to recovery.
Resurgent Bangladesh, a platform to help Bangladesh devise strategies and policies for economic recovery following Covid-19, presented a model Lockdown Exit Strategy Framework for the government and other stakeholders’ consideration, during its first discourse meeting on Thursday evening.
Resurgent Bangladesh is a joint initiative of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), Chittagong Stock Exchange (CSE), Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD), and Policy Exchange.
MCCI President Nihad Kabir delivered the introductory remarks, while Policy Exchange Chairman Dr Masrur Reaz presented the keynote on the exit strategy framework and key activities of the Resurgent Bangladesh initiative.
BUILD Chairman Abul Kasem Khan provided remarks from the perspective of the private sector. Asif Ibrahim, chairman of CSE, moderated the open discussion session.
Plan of action
The strategy highlighted the need for careful planning in the post-lockdown reopening and economic revival.
The key objective of the framework is to resume and revive economic activities and daily life without increasing the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
It recommended a phased reopening of economic activities, provided that the risk of virus spread has been brought under control.
It also puts emphasis on centralized assessment and monitoring mechanisms, preparedness assessment, vulnerability mapping or zoning, economic/social sector-specific considerations for phased strategy, and health and non-health related objectives.
The strategy provided a plan and set criteria on ‘where, what, and how’ to reopen.
Nihad Kabir said: “We are in no position to think about economic growth now. Our priority is to ease the lockdown while ensuring the highest standard of public health safety.”
If the coronavirus situation worsens, she suggested imposing a hard lockdown for a short time now in order to get better results in economic activities in the future.
“If we can sustain the normal supply and demand chain, the economy will return to normalcy again,” she added.
Masrur Reaz said because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the global GDP growth may fall by 3% in 2020.
“Moreover, global trade may also decrease by 13-30% this year. Asia’s export would slump by 36% and about 195 million people may lose their jobs globally,” he commented.
“But we need accurate and reliable data to study the impact,” he further added.
DCCI President Shams Mahmud said cottage, micro, small, and medium enterprises need to be safeguarded.
“Job creation is the need of the hour,” he remarked.
He also emphasized better coordination and quicker implementation of government directives.
Abul Kasem Khan said the impact of the pandemic is yet to be stabilized, despite few economic activities taking place on a smaller scale.
“The post lockdown strategy needs a dynamic implementation of policies and guidelines, for which we need accurate and reliable data for impact assessment,” he stated.
He also suggested phase-wise reopening.
Echoing Nihad’s thoughts, Policy Research Institute Executive Director Ahsan H Mansur said if it takes time for the situation to stabilize, a hard lockdown for a short period may be imposed in order to achieve a better result in future.
Distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue, Prof Mostafizur Rahman, said: “There should not be any weakness in the reforms.”
He further said we should also ensure that inequality in the society does not increase.
Former National Board of Revenue chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan recommended the private sector to maintain close liaison with the government to chalk out a plan for post-lockdown economic development activities.
He lauded the government for its initiatives in the primary health sector but said lots of improvement needs to be made at the tertiary level.
High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Sri Lanka Riaz Hamidullah, former BASIS president Habibullah N Karim, former law secretary Mohammad Shahid, former principal secretary to Prime Minister Abdul Karim, Oxford University NHS Trust Doctor Shakil Farid, Deloitte Executive Advisor Sharif Islam, Economic Reporters Forum General Secretary S M Rashedul Islam, PWC Director Pranshu Jain, professor at Monash University Asad Islam, and associate professor at University of Dhaka Rashedur Rahman also participated in the open discussion session.