Govt dialogue on stimulus packages begins today

The government will today hold the first of its three dialogues to evaluate the nearly two dozen stimulus packages rolled out to tackle the Covid-19 fallout.

Since the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh in March, the government has announced 21 stimulus packages involving Tk 121,353 crore to revive the economy and protect people.

The finance ministry will hold the series of dialogues styled, 'Stimulus Packages for Sustainable and Inclusive Recovery from Covid-19 Fallout in Bangladesh', in the format of three view-exchange meetings.

The initiative is aimed at raising awareness among stakeholders about the various aspects of the packages and their contribution to economic recovery, the finance ministry said in a press release yesterday.

Noted economists, researchers, country heads of multilateral development organisations and ambassadors will attend the dialogues as discussants.

The first view-exchange meeting will be held on the topic 'Job Retention, Restoration of Demand and Maintenance of Supply Chain'.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, the prime minister's Principal Secretary Ahmad Kaikaus, World Bank Country Director Mercy Tembon and Japanese Ambassador ITO Naoki will speak at the event.

Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling, and Nazneen Ahmed, a senior research fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, will attend the discussion as well.

Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder will make a keynote presentation.

The second dialogue, to be held on December 3, will be on employment generation and revitalisation of the rural economy.

The last part of the series is set for December 10 and will discuss expanding the social safety net programmes and ensuring food security, the press release said.

The combined support under the stimulus packages now accounts for 4.3 per cent of the gross domestic product of Bangladesh.

The packages have been provided in the form of low-cost loans for the micro, small, medium and large industries, service providers, food security, social protection and special allowances as the pandemic-induced shutdown paralysed the economy, drying up millions of jobs and creating hundreds of new poor.

The dialogue comes amid criticisms over the effectiveness of the scheme as the disbursement for small and medium enterprises, and farm sectors is still very slow.

For sectors like the export-oriented ones and large industries, the disbursement was quick. As of September, banks lent 48 per cent of a Tk 76,000 crore fund to large industries.

The export-oriented sector, mainly garments, is ahead of all so far. Initially, they were given Tk 5,000 crore. When the industry demanded more after the funds were exhausted, the government allocated another Tk 3,000 crore. The second tranche has also been distributed.

There are sectors where the disbursement of the stimulus fund has been very slow.

The special refinancing scheme worth Tk 5,000 crore for the agricultural sector can be a case in point. Some 78,526 farmers or farms received Tk 1,892 crore from 43 banks, which was less than one-third of the allocation.

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