Economists suggest taking advice from health experts on reopening of different sectors

MNA Business Desk: The first one month of the ongoing lockdown that ends today (Sunday) has already affected the country’s economy seriously.

The Health Economics Department estimates the loss during the first one month at over Tk.1.0 trillion. However, relevant other government agencies are yet to make their assessment.

Until Saturday, a total of 140 people died of coronavirus infection and 4,998 others tested positive in 60 districts, according to official estimate.

And there are debates in different circles on the issue of reopening of different sectors to ‘save the economy’ from further damage.

But when asked the billion-dollar question as to how long the country will be needed to be kept shut, economists opined that the government should follow the advice of health experts.

“This is a technical issue and it depends on the course of the coronavirus situation. But there can be partial opening of some essential sectors,” Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam, former finance adviser to the caretaker government, told the FE on Saturday.

If the coronavirus situation keeps aggravating, it is too early to talk about reopening of essential sectors, he added.

He said the government should try its best to ensure that no one die of hunger during this period.

The government has taken some good measures but those need to be effective in true sense otherwise the poor people will not get any benefit.

Talking to the FE, Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), suggested following the prescription of health experts to ease the lockdown.

The present situation is driven by health emergency and the health experts should dictate when it will be the right time to ease the lockdown.

“In other countries, reopening started when the health experts declared that they had passed the peak of corona transmission”.

“But it does not mean that we should go for rash reopening after we cross the peak. We have to reopen partially and ensuring due protection,” he added.

“There is a trade-off between life and livelihoods. So, during the lockdown period, the government should ensure that the people who become jobless and who have no income can get proper incentives from the state”.

The government has declared some measures but the proper implementation should be ensured, said Mr. Mustafiz.

He also suggested cash transfer to vulnerable groups who can be identified through NID cards.

The harvesting and marketing of agricultural produce is also a crucial task for the government, he added.

Dr Ahsan H Mansur of Policy Research Institute suggested partial opening of some key sectors after ensuring health protection.

“It is true that we cannot afford indefinite lockdown. We have to open sectors in a certain time and we have to prepare ourselves so that production in factories can be run under proper health protection,” he added.

The economic loss of coronavirus is yet to be estimated by any government agencies but recently a survey of the Health Economics Department showed that the loss would be more than Tk. 1.0 trillion in the first one month of the lockdown.

According to Professor Syed Abdul Hamid who steered the survey, the extent of loss will be more than Tk.2.0 trillion if the lockdown passes the second month.

However, Prof Mostafiz said many people who were earlier above the poverty line will go under the line due to their income loss during the corona.


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