PM unveils four programmes to tackle economic fallout from Covid-19
Sheikh Hasina said the first phase (immediate phase) programmes will be implemented over the next three months of the current fiscal year (2019-20), while the short phase in the next fiscal year (2020-21) and the medium phase in the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 fiscal years. “The shock of the world economic recession has become a cause of concern for our economy. We don’t know how long this crisis will persist and how it’ll affect our economy. But we’re working to face the possible economic adverse impact,” she said.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said this while addressing the nation on Monday evening ahead of Pahela Baishakh 1427. State-owned Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television simultaneously broadcast the Prime Minister’s address. Private television channels and radio stations also aired the speech. In her around 16-minute speech, Sheikh Hasina said the government has already announced various stimulus packages worth Tk 95,619 crore which is 3.3 percent of the GDP.
She said the government has taken various programmes to protect the marginal people. In this connection, she mentioned that the government has allocated 5 lakh metric tons of rice and 1 lakh metric ton of wheat for distribution free among the low-income group people and the market price of this allocation is Tk 2,503 crore. For the low-income people living in urban areas, the sale of rice at Tk 10 under the OMS has started and 74,000 metric tons of rice will be distributed under this programme and the government had to allot Tk 251 crore for this, the Prime Minister said.
She said directives have been given to prepare a list quickly with the bank accounts of day-labourers, rickshaw- or van-pullers, transport workers, construction workers, newspaper hawkers, hotel employees and other professionals who have lost their jobs due to the long vacation or partial lockdown. After preparing the list, one-time cash will be sent to the bank accounts. A total of Tk 760 crore has been allocated for this. The Prime Minister said the net of ‘old age allowance’ and ‘widow and husband-abandoned women allowance’ will be widened to cent percent under the social safety net programmes in 100 highest poverty-stricken upazilas. The budget for this programme is Tk 815 crore.
She said quick implementation of the programme to provide homes for all homeless people of the country will be done which was taken as one of the programmes to observe the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. “For this purpose, Tk 2,130 crore will be allotted and no-one will remain homeless,” she said.
‘Don’t lose morale’: PM to health workers
Pointing at physicians, nurses and other health workers, the Prime Minister asked them not to lose their morale during this crisis, saying the whole nation is there with them. “Doctors, nurses and other health workers continue to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients from the frontline, ignoring the constraint of resources and the risk of death. Your profession is of such a challenge. Don’t lose the morale during this crisis. The people of the country are beside you,” she said.
The Prime Minister on behalf of the people of the country thanked and hailed the health workers, saying the government has already directed all those concerned to prepare a list of the health workers who directly deal with the coronavirus-infected patients.
Special honorarium and health insurance
The health workers will be given special honorarium as an amount of Tk 100 crore is being allocated to this end. Sheikh Hasina said a process is underway to introduce a special health insurance for physicians, nurses, other health workers, field-level administration officers, members of law enforcement agencies, Armed Forces and BGB, and other government employees directly engaged in this regard.
If anyone gets contacted with Covid-19, then there will be health insurance of Tk 5-10 lakh for the person depending on the rank and position. In the case of death, one will get five times of the insurance amount. The allocation of Tk 750 crore is being kept aside for the health insurance and life insurance in this regard, she said.
No scarcity of safety equipment
Noting that there is no shortage of safety equipment, the Prime Minister said the health workers will continue to provide the optimum services keeping themselves protected this is the expectation of the people of the country. At the same time, she urged every public and private hospital authorities to keep eye so that the normal (non-Covid) patients are in no way get deprived of healthcare services.
The Prime Minister extended her sincere thanks to those who are deployed in ensuring social distancing – the members of police, other law enforcement agencies, Armed Forces, government officials—and media workers, and the persons who are engaged in carrying Covid-19 patients and the funeral process of Covid-19 deceased.
Don’t leave a piece of land uncultivated
Sheikh Hasina said the continuation of regular agricultural production will not only be enough as it will have to be boosted in this time of dire crisis. “Don’t leave any piece of land uncultivated so that the country doesn’t see any food crisis in the days to come.” She said the government has taken measures so that all sorts of agricultural inputs, including seeds, fertilisers and pesticides reach the farmers in time.
In order to ensure the fair prices of Boro paddy for the farmers, the government will procure extra 2 lakh metric tons of paddy and rice compared to the last season, the Prime Minister said, adding that Tk 200 crore has been allocated for the procurement of agricultural machinery.
She said a fund of Tk 5,000 crore is being created to provide running capital to the agricultural sector. From this fund, loans will be disbursed at 4 percent interest rate among the small and medium farmers in agriculture, fisheries, dairy and poultry sectors. Besides, an allocation of Tk 9,500 crore is being kept as the subsidy to the agriculture sector.
No food crisis now
She said there is no food crisis now in the country as adequate food grains are there remain in government godowns (warehouses) and the houses of farmers. Noting that it had a bumper yield of Aman crops in the season, she said it is expected that there’ll also be a bumper production of Boro paddy in the ongoing season. Special measures have been taken to maintain the supply and distribution of foods and agricultural products, she added.
Distribute reliefs through proper channels
The Prime Minister said many philanthropist individuals and organisations have come up with relief materials for the poor during this crisis. In a bid to ensure the order, these relief materials and assistance need to be distributed through local government bodies and law enforcement agencies, no separate disbursement, she said. She urged the rich to continue to provide their assistance for the poor. Sheikh Hasina said the government keeps its eyes on the situation and takes measures timely whatever necessary to check the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Prime Minister said the government has imposed a ban on all outdoor programmes to celebrate Pahela Baishakh due to the deadly coronavirus. “It has been done thinking the greater public health condition. Because, this virus, meanwhile, has started putting its appalling claws in our country, too.”
Don’t panic, govt with you
The Prime Minister urged all not to plunge into fear and panic as it weakens human’s resistance power. “Don’t spread panic, we all have to face the situation with courage and the government is always beside you,” she said. She also mentioned that some vested quarters are trying to mislead people through spreading rumours which is not desirable at all at this crisis moment. “Please, don’t get confused.” Sheikh Hasina asked the media to publish authentic information with responsibility to support the government to face this pandemic. “The darkness that has engulfed us will fade away one day,” she said.