Published:  12:14 AM, 25 March 2020

The pandemic of COVID-19 and economy of Bangladesh

Harun Ar Rashid Mamun and Saydur Rahman

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease named COVID-19 continues its march and is spreading fear around the globe. The disease originated in China has already spread to all continents of the globe. The number of people infected with the virus increasing dramatically day by day. Coronavirus has now become a threat to not only human life, but also the world economy. Because, when China is under threat, the global economy cannot stay safe.

Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Central China's Hubei province, also a commercial center, is being considered as the place where the coronavirus outbreak began. The outbreak was first reported last December.

According to the latest data, the virus is affecting 170 countries and territories around the world including Bangladesh and more than10 thousand people have died in the virus. The number of people affected has increased to more than two lakh around the world.

Besides, three coronavirus patients have been identified for the first time in Bangladesh on 8 March 2020 and the number reached 20 on 20 March. So, Bangladeshi citizens cannot ignore the threat of the virus as well as their economy.

Because China is considered one ofthe crucial partners in the trade and economic development of the country, if the situation continued for a long time, this will not be good for us. Signs have already started to show. And if it is continuing Bangladeshi economy will suffer a lot. Not only in garments but also in coronavirus has started affecting the entire economic sector in Bangladesh.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has predicted that Bangladesh could face up to 320 cores 10 lakh dollar economic losses if the Coronavirus goes to its worst. The spread of the virus will have a significant negative impact on the various economic sectors of the country. This will be a loss to tourism, travel, trade and production, disruption of domestic demand, disruption of supply and health.

The extent of the economic damage depends on how widespread the outbreak of the virus is, which is still uncertain.

However, in the development sector, Bangladesh is heavily dependent on China. At present most of the mega projectsof Bangladesh are implementingwith the help of Chinese technical assistants. In fact, it cannot be wrong if we say the future of our mega projects is might befall in danger in terms of implementation because of the disruption from the Chinese side.

The supply chain of these megaprojects will break down surelyif thesituation remains like now. The Chinese ambassador in Dhaka said that"already there is 10% lesser the Chinese the usual in the megaproject because of Coronavirus."

The garment sector of Bangladeshalso heavily depends on China for raw materials and machinery. About 60% of total raw materials and a significant number of skilled manpower of the garment industry come from China. Because of the diseases, the supply chain is broken and most fearful thing is that there is no signof improvement up there in china. On this matter, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said a huge number factory will go out of production due to a lack of raw materials.

Similarly, the Bangladeshimedical industry is also heavily dependent on China; almost 90% oflives saving medicine are supplied by them.If theimports of the necessary chemical are stops, maybe disrupting for public health security of Bangladesh.

Moreover, the country's Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and the light engineering sector mostly depend on China for their raw material and cheap price of mechanics but at present there no trade or commercial activity in China. So it becomes tougher to our SME and light engineering sector to sustain supply products and this will create huge impacts on our rural and suburban socio-economic life.

Even, Coronaads presume to our agricultureespecially in the seed and fertilizer market Bangladesh import a large percentageof their demand from china. Not only that, but we also buy zinger, garlic, and onion from China is the major supplier apart from India. Day to day, essential spice all the shipments of these products from China are delayed due to the present situation.

Some unconventional agro-based products like- lobster farmings which are mainly exported to China are stops and farmerand businessman those are engaged with this sector are fearingto lose their investment. Production came down 85 to35 tons and the export has come down1800 core taka before the continuing march of Coronavirus it was in around 300 crore taka.

Last but not the least, another problem for Bangladesh is that the country is too dependent on one or two countries for export and import which not well at all for a growing economic country like Bangladesh by creating unwanted pressures on the economic system of the country. Sometime this can't be handled.So now the time has come to re-think that the country is prepared to handle the situation and keep its business' and trade in a safe zone.

Opportunities and way out for Bangladesh

As we know every crisis also brings some opportunities with it. Because of the crisis may western countries cancel their order from china particularly garments and lather sectors.

If we can present Bangladesh as one of the suppliers it will be good for our economy and may help to face the upcoming economic situation. For this, firstly Bangladesh can search alternative markets and suppliers of raw materials to overcome the situation. Otherwise, the Bangladeshi economy will be in great problem.We know it is very tough for the country to find an alternative but she has to. Otherwise, our products may be a decline soon.

Secondly, Bangladesh can find new potential buyers for her products. For that, the government has togives emphasize on trade diplomacy and diversification of products and tries to improve the quality. Thirdly, make sure the maximum use of locally available raw materials. It is very important toovercome thepresent crisis and to take the opportunity. For example, we can offer our local lather and cotton to the potential buyer. For that, some steps must be taken as soon as possible.

However, now the government of Bangladesh should look for alternatives for raw materials and take the initiative to import it tocope with the changing situation. At the same time, the government has to verify the export market and need to look at what are the demandsare for the importing countries, what we have for export. Lastly, it is important to adopt a cost-reduction policy as a possible preparation for combating the economic impact of the virus and the expenditure of the government. Will Bangladesh take such initiatives?

The writers are master's student at the Department of Public Administration, Comilla University

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