2020-04-01 08:32:57 BdST

Protecting people, economy is top priority: Finance minister


The government's top priority is to protect the people and economy of Bangladesh from the shock of the novel coronavirus pandemic, said Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in a meeting with the Bangladesh Bank governor and top officials at his ministry on Tuesday.

"The ultimate impacts of this crisis will depend on how far the pandemic spreads and lasts," a press release from the Ministry of Finance quoted Kamal.

He said Bangladesh's import bills and export earnings are already lower than those in the same period of the previous fiscal year. These may shrink further at the end of the current fiscal, the minister fears.

Private sector investment may fall short due to a deferral of ongoing mega projects and a delay in establishing new economic zones.

Coronavirus is affecting public health and the global economy, and Bangladesh is not an exception.

Crude oil price has already halved in the international markets and that is impacting remittance income. But the 21 percent growth in inward remittance already achieved over the first eight months of this fiscal may offset the fall in the next four months to keep the annual figure positive.

The long holiday – a de facto lockdown – to avert the pandemic is impacting the service and manufacturing sectors, export-oriented industries and, of course, the small and medium enterprises. It has also disrupted transportation and supply chain.

These all may reduce low-income people's purchasing power and the government's targeted revenue as well, said the minister.

To tackle the adversities through boosting public spending, packages of financial supports, widening social safety nets and increasing money flow into the economy, the government very promptly has taken some short-and mid-term plans.

Transferring Tk250 crore to the health department from the finance ministry is a part of that.

Low-income people who are going back to their homes will get government aid, and homeless people will get free houses alongside food for six months and some cash.

Relief programmes alongside concessional rice vending – Tk10 per kilogram — will remain floating.

The government has already declared an incentive package of Tk5,000 crore for export-oriented industries to pay wages.

Mustafa Kamal said the government is planning to provide more supports to exporters, cottage industries, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

The central bank has already come up with some supports to the shocked businesses. All the lenders must wait up to June to treat any borrower in case of non-payment.

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