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OP-ED: A litmus test

  • Published at 12:12 pm June 19th, 2020
people child mask
Are we doing enough for the people? / REUTERS

Bangladesh is in dire need of leadership and good global partners

Halting the spread of Covid-19 has become a litmus test for world powers to demonstrate their leadership skills. Those who are able to work with their nation’s, healthcare professionals, and citizens without the bias of their political affiliations and personal gain will overcome this pandemic and strengthen their nation. 

Those who are arrogant and unable to communicate with their citizens with a tone of respect and dignity will hurt their countries, and no matter how powerful they think of themselves, will fail. 

No one is invincible -- a good reason to recalibrate all the world leaders’ conventional ways to rule their citizens. It is expected from an elected official to focus on their nation’s wellbeing with health care is a top priority. 

All necessary steps, such as healthcare, food, shelter, defense, and education are essentials that citizens expect the government to fulfill. The Bangladeshi government has taken some great steps such as assuring six months of food for people in need and is also implementing online education. 

No country was truly ready for this unwarranted global crisis but the Bangladeshi government is addressing the issue because they have been able to build upon basic needs. 

Since the virus originated from China, its economic activities will be significantly impacted. There will be an added layer of liability to import something from China, especially in countries that practice strong consumer rights such as the US and EU countries. 

Bangladesh is one of the top alternative suppliers for the global readymade garments products -- Bangladesh is already number two in exporting RMG. However, the demand is likely to grow more once the mass quarantine ends. 

In order to understand the market demand and negotiate contracts with more markets, Bangladesh is in dire need of leadership and good global partners. Over 3.5 million Bangladeshis are working in the garments sector and it is an essential sector for Bangladeshi economy to sustain. 

With extensive diplomatic activities, Bangladesh should be able to retain its export business and save millions of people from losing their jobs. Bangladesh can also add more industry standards addressing the health concerns in addition to their current goal as part of the international buyers’ demands regarding health and safety measures. 

Considering the worries over the contagious diseases coming from Asia, Bangladesh may experience some backlash too, unless there are some proactive measures taken to respond to those possible concerns. 

Foreign remittance is the second-most critical economic strength in Bangladesh as 10 million people working overseas are sending over $15 billion worth of remittances each year. This money supports many young families and elderly people who may not be able to get into the workforce if the income stops. 

It is critical that Bangladesh tries to reach out to countries which are hosting these employees and do not take harsh actions on humanitarian grounds while those countries wait for economic recovery. There are many global consultants in countries that are not competing against Bangladesh and seeking advice from them would be beneficial. 

Bangladesh is prone to extreme natural disasters and with many sacrifices and learnings they have been able to overcome those crises but better preparation would help many causes. It has been warned that global warming will raise the sea level by three feet and one-third of Bangladesh may go underwater. 

While the whole world is rethinking the new ways of life in the post Covid-19 era, Bangladesh has an opportunity to explore possibilities in building housing, hospitals, roads, and other structures to improve lives. 

With the ICT vision, perhaps remote working, hybrid education solutions, and residential projects near work may be explored. 

Most importantly, improving the healthcare sectors and overall hygiene standards should be a top priority for its citizens and the global population in general. 

We know very well that what happened in Wuhan, China will not be an isolated and final event. 

Mazher Mir is a financial adviser.

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