Containing the spread of the virus is the priority right now. Other concerns can be put on the back-burner
In normal times, the expanding capitalist-driven world seeks the advice of specialists to inform strategies, be it in economics, defense, medicine, or otherwise.
In the span of almost a year and a half, such methods have faded fast. Does it really take rocket science to combat the new spread of the virus? The national committee has suggested a float of measures to be implemented. Most of what they feel is the way forward can be implemented through creative thinking.
What with digital platforms gaining momentum, economists and nutritionists combined with communications professionals and IT entrepreneurs can think of ways for small businesses to operate in relatively safer forms. There are young IT freelancers that are earning modest sums sitting at home.
This talent just needs to be organized to cater to people’s needs, albeit charting unknown territory. More involvement of professionally run businesses including multinationals can also help with new solutions. By banning app-based Pathao travel, it has slowed, not stopped the business. No one has examined the possibility of using their skill in deliveries of goods and services.
Distribution and wholesaling houses of established businesses can be utilized to ensure SME funding reaches the recipients in conjunction with the SME foundation. Congregations, including religious ones, must be stopped either through gentle persuasion or force, if required. Self-contradictory decisions are required to be sliced up and coordinated.
The Bangabandhu Games could have, should have, been postponed as should have been the exams for medical aspirants. More exam centres could have been another option. Having heard the views of some of the examinees, their frustration was vocal. The parents had their points too.
Travelling on buses and other transport with the existing restrictions can hardly have helped the job aspirants’ states of mind. With Eid in just over a month and a half, let there be clear-cut, advance preparations to prevent the horrible chaos of last year. If it is an extended holiday, batch-wise movement will help. It might seem sacrilege, but curfews have to be imposed in worst-hit areas without exceptions, other than essential product and medical supplies movements.
The basic health guideline messages have not reached the remote masses. It is just as true that city slums and villages have, for all extents and purposes been largely unaffected by the virus. Government directives on combating the virus have largely been ignored because there’s confusion over who is charged with implementation.
Creative thinking can assist industries such as tourism that will lose out on business, be it in the form of stimulus packages or low-interest loans. Advance thinking by many countries has led to a surge in advertising tourism destinations even though quarantines and flight schedules are all over the place. Air travel has essentially been banned by most countries. Bangladesh had left the UK out of its current suspensions. In response, the UK put Bangladesh on a list that is as red as the faces of the civil aviation authority in our country.
Remittances continue to come in, more by unauthorized money being sent back rather than earnings of expatriate Bangladeshis. Garments industries that had promised to run maintaining health guidelines have now said they can’t operate observing social distancing. They’ve also succeeded in having gained extensions in paying back the loans they received to pay their workers.
Emotions unhappily have to be put on the back-burner for now.
There will be time and scope. For now, it’s juggling the fireballs of the virus and the economy. That requires skills the government has to pull out of society. There are enough successes to pick from.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.