‘There are reasons to be concerned about the mega projects’

‘There are reasons to be concerned about the mega projects’

What is the most damaging impact of COVID-19 on Bangladesh’s economy?

The effect of COVID-19 has been multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral. But if I am to single out the most affected sector, that will be education. We are heading for a demographic disaster following the pandemic. Low spending and pandemic time educational mismanagement have worsened our ongoing education crisis. Bangladesh not only had the longest spell of school closure in the world, it also had the least effective offline and online education system. Add to this the challenge of digital divide and the pre-pandemic burden of learning poverty. According to one estimate, Bangladesh is projected to experience a loss of USD 31,481 million in lifetime earnings.

Due to the pandemic, a large section of the population fell below the poverty line. Now they are under the pressure of high prices of commodities. The government has taken initiative to sell essentials to the poor by means of TCB cards. How far will this be able to tackle the situation?

Much depends on governance. We have to address multiple forms of exclusion and pilferage. At the local level, many eligible recipients allegedly remain excluded because of issues of mis-targeting and corruption in the registration process. Add to this the challenge of the new poor – many lower middle class families temporarily pushed into poverty. Regardless, the introduction of the TCB cards is a useful stop-gap measure to cope with short-term fluctuations in international prices. On the other hand, if prices are rising following a permanent increase in production costs, then the government needs to take measures to assist producers and/or to increase supply.

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