Highest priority of govt now to save people from COVID-19: Kamal

File photo

DHAKA, March 31, 2020 (BSS) – Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal today said that the highest priority of the government is now to save the country’s people from the onslaught of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Side by side, it’s also our responsibility to ensure food for the marginal people,” he said.

The Finance Minister was addressing a review meeting on the possible impact of coronavirus in Bangladesh’s economy and its way forward with the concerned secretaries and high officials held at his residence today, said a Finance Ministry press release.

Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir, NBR Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, Financial Institution Division Senior Secretary Md Ashadul Islam, Finance Division Secretary Abdur Rauf Talukder and ERD Secretary Fatima Yasmin, were present, among others.

The meeting also held preliminary discussions about framing the national budget for the next fiscal year (FY21) as the government is continuing communication with the development partners for getting budgetary support so that there is no financial crisis due to the impact of COVID-19.

Speaking about the possible impact of the coronavirus on the country’s economy, the Finance Minister said the COVID-19 could fall Bangladesh into multifaceted problems like other countries of the world as no one knows how long the problem would persist.

Mentioning that the import cost and export earnings are now less in the current fiscal year (FY20) compared to the same period of the last fiscal year while it could further go down at the end of the current year, Kamal said the private investment might not come into an expected level in this year due to possible delay in implementation of the mega projects and the countrywide special economic zones.

He noted that the services sector like the hotels, restaurants, transport and the aviation sector alongside the capital market would feel the heat due to the impact of this virus adding, however, the inward remittance flow might not be less at the end of this year compared to the previous year.

The Finance Minister said although it’s not possible now to estimate the economic loss of the country like other countries of the world, but Bangladesh could incur economic loss up to $3.2 billion if the country could experience the worst consequences due to this deadly virus quoting an ADB estimation.

He said due to the long general holidays to avert the spread of COVID-19, the export-oriented industries, SMEs and the cottage industries are being affected due to this virus while the purchasing capacity of the low-income group is also being reduced. “We’re a bit concerned about attaining the revenue collection target.”

Kamal said the government has already undertaken some short and mid-term plans to overcome the impact of coronavirus through increasing government expenditure, announcing Taka 5,000 crore stimulus package, widening the coverage of the social safety net, and increasing the flow of monetary supply while Taka 250 crore has been allocated against the Health Ministry to bolster its fight against this lethal virus.

He also mentioned various steps and initiatives of the government and the central bank to support the export-oriented various sectors and industries to help recoup the impact of this virus.