Covid-19 couldn’t hit hard Bangladesh for govt’s prompt actions: PM

Covid-19 couldn’t hit hard Bangladesh for govt’s prompt actions: PM


DHAKA, Dec 21, 2021 (BSS) –

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the
Covid-19 pandemic couldn’t hit hard her country due to the government’s
prompt actions to protect most vulnerable people and businesses.

  “Bangladesh could have fallen prey to COVID-19 but we acted fast to protect
both our most vulnerable people and businesses. As a result, the pandemic did
not hit Bangladesh as hard as other countries,” she wrote in an article
published in New York based famous magazine FORTUNE on Monday.

   Following is the full article by Sheikh Hasina:

  Bangladesh Prime Minister: We rise from COVID-19 by helping the neediest

  Bangladesh could have fallen prey to COVID-19 but we acted fast to protect
both our most vulnerable people and businesses. As a result, the pandemic did
not hit Bangladesh as hard as other countries. We are emerging from the
pandemic in a good position to continue the economic resurgence that began a
decade ago.

  Our approach to fighting COVID-19 was to balance lives and livelihoods,
focusing on the needs of people first and then assisting the businesses that
employed them.

  At the very start of the pandemic last year, the government offered relief
to the ultra-poor, the disabled, seniors, migrants, and impoverished women.
We quickly distributed cash and other types of assistance to 40 million
people, a quarter of the population. This came in the form of 28 separate
stimulus programs totaling $22.1 billion-nearly 6.2% of our Gross Domestic
Product (GDP). We spent billions of additional dollars on vaccines and other
emergency measures.

  People continue to be at the heart of everything we do, whatever the
Omicron variant brings. The government instituted a “No One Will Go Hungry”
policy that provided rice, baby food, and cash to 16.8 million families. We
targeted payments to the aged, the disabled, and deserted and destitute
women. We expanded a program inaugurated prior to the pandemic to build
houses for the homeless to commemorate the centenary of the birth of my
father-the founding father of the nation and its first president-Bangabandhu
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The program contributed immensely to our fight against
the disease.

  The government also prioritized assisting small businesses and their
employees. We offered low-interest loans to small-business entrepreneurs,
especially women and farmers. Government loans on favorable terms also were
used to pay workers in the tourism and hospitality industries that were
ravaged by shutdowns.

  Larger businesses also received assistance: Several rounds of multi-
billion-dollar payments went to employees of export-oriented companies, such
as those in our vital garment-making industry. A working-capital loan
facility was established to keep both big manufacturers and rapidly growing
service firms, including information technology companies, in operation.
Interest payments on these loans were split between the borrowers and the
government. Interest payments on all commercial loans, in fact, were
suspended for two months last year and then spread out over the next 12
months to ease the financial burden on employers.

  Like other nations, Bangladesh instituted social distancing edicts,
mandated the wearing of face coverings, and enforced a 66-day public holiday
from late March to early June last year. Industrial production slid. Small
and medium-sized businesses were shuttered. Global lockdowns reduced demand
and rocked our entire economy. However, we never lost faith in ourselves and
continued to invest in our people. We set up testing facilities. We did
contact tracing. We installed isolation facilities in hospitals across the
country. We also recruited 6,200 doctors, 10,000 nurses, and 3,000 other key
medical personnel. In the end, thanks in part to years of investments at the
local level, our healthcare system was resilient despite the terrible strain.

  The combination of new initiatives and past investments has saved countless
lives and allowed our economy to weather the storm. GDP growth has increased
roughly by two percentage points since November last year. Bangladesh is now
among the five fastest-growing economies in the world. Over the past 10
years, Bangladesh has reduced its poverty rate from 31.5% to 20.5%. Our per
capita income has trebled in a single decade to $2,227 in fiscal 2021, which
is higher than our neighbors India and Pakistan. Our foreign currency
reserves have reached an all-time high of $48 billion. The pandemic has
failed to impede our progress.

   Indeed, our relentless attention to helping the people who needed help the
most clearly has paid major dividends. We are especially proud that the World
Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Bangladesh seventh in political empowerment of
women, outpacing our regional neighbors since 2014. Our infant mortality rate
has been reduced to 23.67 per 1,000. The maternal mortality rate has fallen
to 173 per 100,000 live births. Bangladeshis’ average longevity has risen to
73 years.

  Bangladesh has also become a world leader in digital adoption and
expertise. Our “Digital Bangladesh” initiative has transformed and
diversified the economy. It made combatting COVID-19 easier than it would
have otherwise been. Average Bangladeshis now rely on their smartphones. As a
result, they are kept informed minute-by-minute about pandemic developments.

  Bangladesh has traveled a long way from being one of the poorest nations
when it was founded in 1971 to achieving lower-middle-income-country status
this year. We are on track to graduate from the United Nations’ list of least
developed countries by 2026. All of this is still possible despite the worst
pandemic in a hundred years. Investing in people made all the difference.