By Sajjad Hossain Sabuj & Golam Moinuddin
DHAKA, May 29, 2020 (BSS) – The government has so far announced a set of stimulus packages worth around $11.90 billion or Taka 1,01,117 crore to offset the COVID-19 shock on various sectors of the country and minimise the sufferings of the people hit hard by the nationwide shutdown enforced to fend off the deadly virus.
“In the wake of COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has so far declared a set of stimulus packages of Tk 1,01,117 crore which is 3.6 percent of total GDP to reinvigorate the country’s economic activities and production system,” a source at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) told BSS.
It said a total of 18 economic sectors, including export-oriented industries, small, medium and cottage industries, agriculture, fish farming, poultry and livestock have been brought under these incentive packages.
Among the packages, the highest amount of Tk 30,000 crore has been allocated for providing working capital facility to the affected industries and services sector organizations followed by Tk 20,000 crore stimulus package for supplying working capital to the small (including cottage industries) and medium industrial enterprises.
The other stimulus packages announced by the government are special fund for the export-oriented industries with Taka 5,000 crore and expanding the facilities of Export Development Fund (EDF) introduced by Bangladesh Bank with Taka 12,750 crore.
Besides, incentive packages like Pre-Shipment Credit Refinance Scheme with Taka 5,000 crore, special honorarium for the doctors, nurses and health workers with Taka 100 crore, health insurance and life insurance with Taka 750 crore and free distribution of food materials with Taka 2,503 crore were announced by the government.
The other stimulus packages announced so far by the government are agriculture subsidy with Taka 9,500 crore, agriculture refinancing scheme with Taka 5,000 crore, refinancing scheme for the low-income professional farmers and small businessmen with Taka 3,000 crore, selling rice at Taka 10 per kg with Taka 251 crore, and distributing cash among the target-based communities with Taka 1,258 crore.
Moreover, incentive packages for expanding the coverage of allowance programme with Taka 815 crore, building houses for the homeless people with Taka 2,130 crore, Boro rice/paddy purchase operation (additional 2 lakh metric tons) with Taka 860 crore, and mechanization of agriculture works with Taka 200 crore were declared since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on May 14 launched the disbursement of Taka 1,250 crore cash assistance among 50 lakh poor families hit hard amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the programme, each of the 50 lakh destitute families, affected badly due to COVID-19 outbreak, received Taka 2,500 ahead of the Eid through mobile financial services (MFSs).
Through this cash support, nearly two crore people were directly benefitted as on an average four members have been counted in each of 50 lakh families, the source said.
In her nationwide address on the eve of the holy Eid-ul-Fitr, Sheikh Hasina said the government is providing food assistance apart from cash aid, adding 1,62,867 metric tons of rice and Taka 91,47,72,000 have so far been allocated.
“We’ve given an allocation of 80,000 MT rice for selling it at Taka 10 per kilogram and issued additional 50 lakh cards this month for the destitute families through which they can buy this rice,” she said.
The premier said a total of Taka 1,250 crore was given to 50 lakh families that have lost jobs but were not included in any assistance programme, through mobile banking and each of the families received Taka 2,500.
“More than Taka 17 crore was given to the qaumi madrasa students and teachers in two phases, while Tk 122 crore two lakh and 15 thousand was provided to imams and muazzin of the mosques as financial assistance,” she added.
Officials said the government has also made special arrangements for the marginalised community of society and these programmes will continue until the situation becomes normal.
A total of Tk 2,500 crore was allocated to Palli Sanchay Bank,Karmasangsthan Bank,Probsahi Kalyan Bank and Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation to help the youths and expatriates who lost jobs for the pandemic.
The government has started procurement of paddy and rice so that the farmers get fair prices. “In the current season, 22.25 lakh MT food grains, two lakh MT more than the previous year, will be procured,”the officials said.
Besides, the government has made arrangements for supplying combined harvesters and reapers at subsidised prices and for this Tk 200 crore was allocated. Another Tk 5,000 crore has been allocated for the farmers at only 4 percent interest to offset the agriculture fallout of the COVID-19.
According to sources, loan facilities of Tk 5,000 crore against special fund for export-oriented industries have been made effective and those who could not join the work are also getting 60 percent salary.
Payment of salary and allowances from this incentive package has already started,the sources added.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made an announcement that all the programmes that the government launched to help the people affected badly in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak will continue until the present crisis is over.
“I and my government will stay beside you Insha Allah until the crisis goes away,” she said.