‘Stimuli offset covid shock’


Planning Minister MA Mannan on Thursday said that the achievements from the 21 stimulus packages have, so far, been good to offset the shock of Covid-19 in various socio-economic sectors of the country, reports BSS.

“About these 21 stimulus packages, we can overall say that these packages have delivered…the main goal of these packages was to give a shot or push to the economy (during pandemic). We can say that it has been done,” he said.

The Planning Minister was addressing as the chief guest at a dialogue series on stimulus packages for sustainable and inclusive recovery from Covid-19 fallout in Bangladesh. The title of the 2nd and Thursday’s dialogue was “Employment creation and revitalizing rural economy,” held at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the city.

Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir spoke at the dialogue as the special guest while General Economics Division (GED) member of the Planning Commission Dr Shamsul Alam, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director Manmohan Parkash, FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Fahim, Distinguished fellow of CPD Mustafizur Rahman, SME Foundation Chairperson Dr M Masudur Rahman spoke as panel discussants.

Senior Secretary of the Finance Division Abdur Rouf Talukder presented the key-note paper while Finance Division Additional Secretary Md Azizul Islam gave the welcome address.

To face COVID-19 fallout, the government has so far declared 21 stimulus packages worth Taka 1.21 trillion ($14.28 billion) which is 4.34 percent of the GDP.

Noting that the government, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has put up a strong fight against this deadly virus, Mannan said, “We’ve been able to recover facing this COVID-19 situation as because we’re resilient as a nation,”

He also expressed him firm optimism that Bangladesh would be able to curb the spread of this COVID-19 virus and tackle its impact with the acquired experiences, capacity and unity of the country’s people.

Referring to the concerns of some quarters that some are not getting the benefits of the stimulus packages, the Planning Minister suggested the Bangladesh Bank and the Finance Division to see whether the scheduled banks are properly abiding by the guidelines of fund disbursement or not as well as to make policy reformulation and policy reshaping if necessary.

Putting emphasis on addressing the issue of ‘miss targeting’ while spending funds, Mannan said, “Spend money, but spend wisely,”

Answering to a question, the Planning Minister said that the strategies that the government had adopted earlier to face COVID-19, proved to be practical and proper. “Since our strategies has become successful, we’ll move forward through consolidating our strategies,”

Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir said that the Bangladesh Bank and the banking sector have been working relentlessly to disburse the stimulus packages timely.

Regarding the working capital loan of Taka 20,000 crore for the SME and cottage industries, he informed that so far Taka 8,218 crore has been released out of that amount with a disbursement rate of 41.09 percent.

The central bank Governor also said that the timeframe for classification of loans has been extended till December so that the target for disbursement of loans could be fulfilled by this time.

“We’ll rise back thanks to the well known resilience of people and prudent macroeconomic management of the government,” he added.

Finance Division Senior Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder told a questioner that around 56 to 57 percent of the stimulus packages have so far been disbursed assuring that hundred percent of the stimulus packages would be implemented.

He also mentioned that implementation of some stimulus packages like for house construction is taking some time.

Replying to another question, the Finance Secretary said it would take some more time to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 in the country in financial terms since it is a specialized task.

GED member of the Planning Commission Dr Shamsul Alam said the 21 stimulus packages were very timely, quite comprehensive, and courageous too.

He also suggested for mobilizing more internal resources through broadening the tax base, attracting more FDI, ODA, budget support, continue supporting export facilities, rationalize tariffs, go for signing more FTAs and PTAs, and to have a national household database as early as possible to properly identify the targeted beneficiaries of social safety nets.

ADB Country Director Manmohan Parkash said this COVID-19 pandemic has shown how Bangladesh is resilient and how Bangladesh can move forward when several other countries of the world are struggling.

He said, “The fundamental things of these 21 stimulus packages are those were prompt, those were inclusive and also those were designed in a very simple way.”

The ADB country director also informed that they are working with the government on another one billion US Dollar support programme of which $500 million will be spent on SMEs and to ensure resource mobilization while another $500 million to health and social protection.

FBCCI President Fahim said Bangladesh is a benchmark in facing COVID-19 while the country is in the right trajectory in macroeconomic policy.