95% people across the country to suffer a loss in their income due to preventive measures taken to contain Covid-19, a Brac survey says
Accelerating infrastructural development, ensuring utility services and upgrading education and medical services in rural areas may help engage the large number of people returning to their villages losing the sources of their income in the wake of Covid-19 fallout.
"You’ll have to ensure better communication system; gas and electricity supply, and education and medical facilities in rural areas to attract the private sector. The returnees from urban areas will also feel encouraged to involve in the rural economy if that happen," former caretaker government finance adviser Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam told UNB.
He said there is no sign in sight yet that the economy “will reach its peak” in near future. So, he suggested creating more jobs in rural areas to absorb the extra pressure mounted by the returnees from urban areas. “The government should focus on that.”
Mirza Aziz mentioned that the rural economy is already overburdened with surplus workers and the new ones will only worsen the situation. "Now creating jobs for them is not an easy task."
Dr Aziz, who was also the chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), said the government should go for such activities which will be considered as productive. "Rural road renovation, repairing, maintenance and infrastructural development might absorb some workers," he said.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said there will be some jobs in rural areas if the agricultural stimulus package can be utilised properly.
Renovation, development, and maintenance of rural infrastructures can be useful, he said adding, "We could utilise a good number of those who returned to their villages during this pandemic."
Prof Mustafiz said if the government-sponsored credit programmes can be implemented quickly those will help create jobs.
He put emphasis on providing financial assistance to non-government organisations which are contributing to various pockets of the rural economy. "If they get government help then they could absorb a good number of returnees."
Prof Mustafiz mentioned that the government so far did not pay attention to this sector. It will supplement government's effort to implement the SDG's “leave no one behind” goal if it can do that.
Talking about the role of private sector in generating jobs in rural areas, he said if loans are provided properly for poultry, fisheries, and livestock then there will be no job cut in this sector as it would create more employment opportunities instead. "The government has to play the role of felicitator in this connection."
Chairperson of Unnayan Onneshan Dr Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, also a Dhaka University professor, also stressed the need for job retention and job creation through giving fiscal facilities.
"There should be mission-oriented rural rejuvenation scheme targeting the youth. There’ll be retraining and re-skilling programmes while introducing them with the banks who want to be self-employed. That means a comprehensive rural rejuvenation scheme should be taken," he said.
He also said those who cannot afford to engage in any work due to their age should be brought under universal social protection.
In its recent survey, Brac said the lockdown and social-distancing measures announced to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced 95% people across the country to suffer a loss in their income.
A total of 2,317 respondents – 68% from rural areas and 32% from urban ones -- from different socio-economic backgrounds in 64 districts joined the survey conducted from 9 to 13 May, 2020.