We acted quickly to protect vulnerable people

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the Covid-19 pandemic could not have as big an impact on Bangladesh as it does in other countries due to swift action to protect both the most vulnerable and the most vulnerable. companies.

“Bangladesh could have fallen prey to Covid-19, but we acted quickly to protect both our most vulnerable people and our businesses. As a result, the pandemic has not hit Bangladesh as hard as other countries. We are emerging from the pandemic in a good position to continue the economic recovery that began ten years ago, ”she wrote Monday in her commentary published in New York-based multinational business magazine – Fortune.

The Prime Minister wrote: “Our approach to tackling Covid-19 was to balance lives and livelihoods, focusing first on the needs of people and then helping the companies that employed them. “

At the very start of the pandemic last year, the government offered aid to the ultra-poor, the disabled, the elderly, repatriated migrant workers and impoverished women, she wrote.

“We quickly distributed cash and other assistance to 40 million people, or a quarter of the population. This was done in the form of 28 separate stimulus packages totaling $ 22.1 billion, or nearly 6.2% of our gross domestic product (GDP). billions of dollars more in vaccines and other emergency measures, ”she added.

“People continue to be at the heart of everything we do, regardless of the Omicron variant,” she noted, adding that the government had a “No one will go hungry” policy in place that provided rice, baby food and cash to 16.8 million families. .

“We have targeted payments to the elderly, the disabled and abandoned and destitute women. We have expanded a program that began before the pandemic to build homes for the homeless to commemorate the centenary of the birth of my father – the nation’s founding father and its first president, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The program has made a huge contribution to our fight against disease, ”wrote Hasina.

She mentioned that the government is also prioritizing assistance to small businesses and their employees. The government has offered low-interest loans to small entrepreneurs, especially women and farmers. Government loans on favorable terms have also been used to pay workers in the tourism and hospitality sectors who have been ravaged by the closures, Hasina added.

The prime minister said big companies have also received help: several rounds of multi-billion dollar payments have been made to employees of export-oriented companies, such as those in the vital garment industry.

“A working capital loan facility has been established to keep both large manufacturers and rapidly growing service companies, including information technology companies, in business. The interest payments on these loans were divided between the borrowers and the government. in fact, were suspended for two months last year and then spread over the next 12 months to ease the financial burden on employers, ”she wrote.

Like other countries, Bangladesh has instituted social distancing decrees, made the wearing of face masks mandatory and imposed a 66-day closure from late March to early June last year, Hasina said.

She wrote that industrial production has plummeted. Small and medium-sized businesses have been closed. Global lockdowns have reduced demand and rocked Bangladesh’s economy.

“However, we never lost confidence in ourselves and continued to invest in our staff. We set up testing facilities. We traced the contacts. We set up isolation facilities in hospitals. We have also recruited 6,200 doctors, 10,000 nurses and 3,000 other key medical personnel. Ultimately, thanks in part to years of investment at the local level, our health system has been resilient despite the terrible tension, ”Hasina said.

The prime minister said the combination of new initiatives and past investments saved countless lives and helped the economy weather the storm. GDP growth has increased by around two percentage points since November last year. Bangladesh is now one of the five fastest growing economies in the world. Over the past 10 years, Bangladesh has reduced its poverty rate from 31.5 percent to 20.5 percent, she wrote.

“Our per capita income has tripled in a single decade to reach $ 2,227 in fiscal 2021, which is higher than that of our neighbors India and Pakistan. Our foreign exchange reserves have reached a level record of 48 billion dollars “, added the Prime Minister.

“Indeed, our relentless focus on helping those most in need of help has clearly paid off. We are especially proud that the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Bangladesh seventh for women’s political empowerment, surpassing 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. The average lifespan of Bangladeshis has increased to 73 years, ”noted Hasina.

She wrote that Bangladesh has also emerged as a global leader in digital adoption and expertise. “Our ‘Digital Bangladesh’ initiative has transformed and diversified the economy. It has made the fight against Covid-19 easier than it would have been otherwise. Average Bangladeshis now rely on their smartphones. As a result, they are informed minute by minute of pandemic developments. ”

The prime minister said Bangladesh has come a long way from its establishment in 1971, one of the poorest countries, to achieving lower middle-income country status this year. “We are on track to drop off the UN list of least developed countries by 2026. All of this is still possible despite the worst pandemic in a hundred years. Investing in people has made all the difference.”

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