October 24, 2020, 3:04 am

Special Correspondent

2020-09-27 11:10:44 BdST

Bangladesh a success story under PM Hasina’s leadership

#  Corona crisis brought under control 

#  GDP growth remains strong at 5.24pc despite global slowdown 

# Stimulus package second highest in Asia 

# Exports rebound amid rapid economic recovery 

Bangladesh maintained a strong GDP growth of 5.24 percent in FY 2019-20 despite the corona pandemic thanks to the timely initiatives taken by the government under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

This growth was the highest in Asia as the wheels of the economy have been kept moving in Bangladesh. 

Due to the efforts led by the prime minister, the country has been successful in tackling the corona crisis and set a new example of successful economic recovery amid the global corona fallout.

The global pandemic put a major strain on economies around the world. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in FY 20, GDP growth stood at minus 0.9 in India, minus 0.4 in Pakistan, minus 5.5 in Sri Lanka, 1.8 in China, minus 8 in Thailand, minus 7.3 in the Philippines and minus 6.2 in Singapore. 

In tackling the crisis and putting the economy in a path of recovery, the prime minister’s advisers including Hossain Toufique Imam, Dr Mashiur Rahman, Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury and Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed Joy extended their wholehearted cooperation to the prime minister, her cabinet and relevant ministries and institutions. 

To combat the Covid-19 pandemic, different ministries and divisions of the government issued a total of 1976 pages of guidelines from January to June to implement the instructions of the Prime Minister.

The government has taken different steps including ensuring healthcare for coronavirus-infected patients, raising mass awareness about hygiene and health precautions, providing cash aid and food support to the vulnerable population, supporting the agriculture sector and women empowerment in addition to focusing on economic recovery. 

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina so far announced 21 stimulus packages worth over Tk 1126.63 billion, which is 4.3 percent of the total GDP to offset the Covid-19 shocks on various sectors and help citizens cope with the economic crisis caused by the global pandemic. 

Bangladesh's stimulus packages are one of the highest among a selective group of countries in Asia, according to a government paper. Among the select group of countries, Bangladesh only lags behind Indonesia in terms of stimulus packages compared to GDP.

Of the stimulus packages, the highest Tk 330 billion was allocated for providing working capital to the affected industries and services, Tk 200 billion working capital support for SMEs, Tk 127.50 billion to central bank’s export development fund (EDF), Tk 50 billion special funds for export-oriented industries and another Tk 50 billion for agriculture refinancing scheme. 

The packages also include Tk 95 billion agro subsidy, Tk 50 billion pre-shipment credit refinance scheme, Tk 32.20 billion for emergency support for agricultural mechanization due to workers shortage, Tk 30 billion support for small farmers and businessmen, Tk 25 billion for free food distribution and Tk 21.30 billion for arranging shelters for homeless people. 

In addition, Tk 20 billion has been allocated for creating jobs, Tk 20 billion for exempting bank loan interests during the April-May period, Tk 20 billion for SMEs’ credit risk-sharing, Tk 12.58 billion for cash transfer among targeted people and Tk 11.32 billion for export-oriented apparel, leather goods and footwear industry.       

Supported by these packages, exports, including the country’s mainstay apparel exports, bounced back from the outset of the current 2020-21 fiscal year. 

In the first two months of current fiscal, exports soared by 2.17 percent to $6.87 billion over the same period last year. 

In 2019-20 fiscal, Bangladesh’s exports slipped to $33.67 billion against the target of $45.50 billion due to the global pandemic.

During the first two months of FY21, the apparel sector fetched $5.71 billion from exports as factories are operating in full capacity to deliver the orders from global retailers. 

Bangladesh’s apparel exports plunged by 18.12 percent to $27.95 billion last fiscal, as compared to $34.13 billion in the previous fiscal.   

After a sharp rebound, RMG exports hit $3.3 billion in August, up from $2.3 billion a year earlier, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) data. 

The reinstatement of cancelled orders from retail buyers including H&M, Primark and Walmart has helped revive the industry even though Bangladesh is still suffering from the impact of the pandemic, BGMEA said. 

In April, western retailers, who normally buy around $30 billion worth of garments from Bangladesh each year, cancelled orders worth $3.2 billion after the virus forced stores around the world to shut down.

RMG exports dropped by 83 percent in April and more than 50 percent in May this year at the onset of the pandemic. Some 80 percent of those orders have since been reinstated, BGMEA said. 

Because of the pandemic, Bangladesh closed factories for one month from 26 March. The 4,500 garment factories employ more than four million workers—about two-thirds of them women—and hundreds of thousands were laid off.

Aligned with the near and long-term needs for Covid-19 recovery, sustainable development goals and the government’s broad-based development vision, the government also announced a Tk 5.68 trillion budget with an ambitious 8.2 percent growth target in FY21.

With the budget, the finance minister said the government wants to bring back the derailed economy on track to make it ready for the path of a developed nation by 2041 while at the same time meeting emergency needs stemmed from the Covid-19 crisis.

HT Imam

HT Imam has been playing an important role in the country’s politics. He served as the first Cabinet Secretary to the government of Bangladesh during the Great Liberation War of 1971. HT Imam was also the first Cabinet Secretary during Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government.
During the 2008 general election, he was the co-chairman of Awami League’s Election Committee formed to run the election. He also played a special role in preparing the election manifesto. The AL won the elections with a brut majority. 

HT Imam, also the chairman of the Publicity Sub-Committee of Awami League, played an important role in winning the 10th and 11th parliamentary elections. 

After assuming office in 2009, Sheikh Hasina appointed HT Imam as the adviser of public administration affairs with the rank and status of a minister. 

He was made the political affairs adviser to the prime minister in 2014 after the Awami League formed the government for the consecutive second term through 5 January 2014 general polls.
Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, Bir Bikrom 

Bangladesh has made significant progress in the power and energy sector. The country’s electrification coverage has already reached 93 percent, thanks to the stronger political commitment of the present Awami League government.

Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury was the leading figure in making the success possible as the prime minister’s energy adviser. 

He was appointed the Energy, Power & Mineral Resources Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister in January 2009 with the rank and status of a Minister. He advises on energy, power and mineral resources.

Bangladesh already has surplus electricity production of and almost overcome energy shortfall after import of LNG. Bangladesh’s electricity generation capacity currently stands at 20,813MW. Incorporating LNG in the country’s energy mix has been a dream until 2017. 

“Prime Minister’s foresight and dynamic leadership have helped add LNG to our energy mix to overcome the country’s energy crisis,” Dr Elahi said.    

Dr Elahi also played a major role in implementing major power and energy sector projects in Rampal, Matarbari and Pyara. He played a vital role in generating electricity in the private sector and guiding the government’s efforts to establish a private power sector stronger than ever. 

He served as Secretary for nearly a decade in the Ministries of Food, Statistics, Power Energy & Mineral Resources and Planning. 

In 1971, as the sub-divisional officer of Meherpur, Kushtia, he joined the liberation war and was commissioned in the Bangladesh Armed Forces. He was decorated for gallantry as Bir Bikrom and was one of the chief organizers of the swearing-in ceremony of the first Government of Bangladesh in Mujibnagar, Meherpur on 17 April 1971.

Dr Mashiur Rahman

As the Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Advisor, Dr Mashiur Rahman has been advising the government on issues related to macroeconomy at the urgent moments. His suggestions were followed very seriously which eventually helped the country maintain macroeconomic stability for a decade.     

On many occasions, he expressed concern over the country’s low tax-GDP ratio and spoke of ways of how to increase taxes to meet increased financing needs from domestic sources for the country’s greater development. In particular, he called for bringing reforms to National Board of Revenue (NBR) to this end. 

He played a tremendous role and was the key person behind singing three line of credit (LoC) deals totalling $7.36 billion with New Delhi.

Besides the government’s Annual Development Programme (ADP), the autonomous public corporations also spend a lot of money every year which had not been included in ADP. Dr Mashiur Rahman suggested the government to include that money to the government’s development expenditure so that the actual size of ADP can be perceived.

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