Enamul Hafiz Latifee writes,
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday, 23 Apri 2020 called for forging a collective global partnership and greater unity to fight the coronavirus pandemic as she placed a five-point proposal that includes devising meaningful strategies.
“The world is perhaps facing the biggest crisis in the last 100 years. So, we need to face the crisis together … we need an approach of collective responsibility and partnership from every society,” she told a virtual regional conference on COVID-19.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) organized the conference titled ‘Enhancing regional cooperation in South Asia to combat COVID-19-related impact on its economics’.
While delivering her statement on “Bangladesh-Building Regional Resilience to fight COVID-19” in the conference from her official Ganabhaban residence here this evening, the Prime Minister spelled out her government’s initiatives to offset the adverse impact of the COVID-19 on Bangladesh’s economy and livelihood.
World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende delivered the welcome speech.
Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Hasina also said, “We don’t know how long the pandemic will persist. It has already affected the economies. We need to bring economy, business, and society on track; support people to get over trauma and fear, and revive vital sectors.”
She said the world is already battling climate change, adding, “Now, the coronavirus is challenging our existence. At the current level of globalization, insulating one country from the rest of the world is not possible and isolation policy will not work anymore.”
The Prime Minister said she is placing five proposals as the world goes through such a complex scenario. “We will need different kinds of approaches to deal with the crisis over the coronavirus pandemic,” she added.
In her first proposal, Sheikh Hasina said the world will need new thinking on human well-being, tackling inequality, supporting poor and getting back our economies to pre-COVID levels as poverty and inequality within and among societies will increase rapidly due to the pandemic.
She added: “In the last one decade, we lifted half of our poor out of poverty. Many of them may now slide back. So, the world will need new thinking on human well-being, tackling inequality, supporting the poor, and getting back our economies to pre-COVID levels.”
In the second proposal, the premier said, “We need robust global leadership from G7, G20 and OECD. UN-led multilateral system should step forward.”
She commended Founder and Executive Chairman of The World Economic Forum Prof Klaus Schwab for identifying “infectious diseases” as a key risk in the 2020 Global Risks Report.
“So, the Forum and UN should mobilize and lead governments and global businesses on focused policy discourse,” she opined and expressed her eagerness to join any such initiative.
In the third proposal, the premier called for devising strategies and practical support measures as the world is currently witnessing a transformation in global businesses, work, and manufacturing.
“We have already seen many global brands within supply chains are not acting responsibly. So, we need to devise strategies and practical support measures so that countries like Bangladesh can adapt,” she said.
“So, we need to devise strategies and practical support measures so that countries like Bangladesh can adapt.” she continued.
In her fourth proposal, Sheikh Hasina said a meaningful global strategy should be adopted to share the burden and responsibilities for the migrant workers.
“Migrant workers are passing very difficult situation, including joblessness that is also risking South Asian economies. So, we need a meaningful global strategy to share the burden and responsibilities,” she opined.
In the fifth proposal, the Prime Minister called for developing innovative solutions in various sectors to better prepare for the future.
“During this pandemic, we’ve effectively used some of the digital tools and technologies, like artificial intelligence and mobile phones to trace infections. So, to better prepare for the future, we can fast develop innovative solutions in various sectors,” she said.
The premier thanked the WEF president and the Forum for taking such an initiative at a critical time in the history of mankind.
She said that the entire world is fighting against an invisible and unknown enemy, called COVID-19 that so far has claimed over 185 thousand lives.
Mentioning that Bangladesh reported the first COVID-19 case on 08 March 2020, Sheikh Hasina said the government has taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus from the very beginning of January.
Illustrating her government’s measures to combat the lethal virus, she said that a 41-day holiday is in-force with bringing almost three-fourth of the country under lockdown.
“Our measures could keep the fatalities still at low with 127 deaths and 4,186 infecting in the last 47 days,” she added.
Noting that as a developing country, Bangladesh is facing twin shocks – both supply and demand — due to the pandemic, the premier said the government has undertaken some measures to get rid of the blows.
“I’ve already announced a US$ 11.60 billion package for various sectors of our economy which is equivalent to 3.5% of our GDP,” she said, adding the primary focus of this package will be on manufacturing and service sectors, agriculture and social safety net facilities.
Describing food security as a regional challenge, the Prime Minister said as of now, Bangladesh has sufficient food stock. “But ensuring food security in case of a prolonged crisis will be a big challenge for all, especially for the South Asian countries,” she said.
The Prime Minister said that Bangladesh’s agriculture is being adversely affected due to disruption of supply chains.
“Around US$ 3 billion have been allocated for agriculture to cope with adverse impact,” she noted.
She said her government is going for direct cash transfer to almost 50 million people while six hundred thousand metric tons of food grains have so far been allocated to succor the poor and low-income people.
Turning to Rohingyas, Sheikh Hasina said as Bangladesh is hosting 1.1 million Rohingya nationals, the government also included them in its overall strategy.
“Our policy mechanisms have focused on ensuring the GDP growth momentum by gearing up domestic demand, enhanced competitiveness, and poverty eradication,” she said.
In this regard, the premier said her government’s main interventions will be increased public expenditure, introduced fiscal packages, expanded social safety net programmes and increased money supply.
World Health Organization’s Regional Director for South-East Asia Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh later gave special briefing over the COVID-19 situation and the measures to be taken to fight the crisis arising out of the pandemic.
Head of WEF’s Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare Arnaud Bernaert provided important insights over the coronavirus situation from the Forum’s Healthcare Community.
The moderator later opened the floor and called upon relevant contributors to share their views for the participants who are members of the Regional Action Group for the South Asia.