May 14, 2020


Bangladesh’s stimulus package tops $11 billion

The government has announced an additional $235 million stimulus package to assist migrant workers, unemployed youth and rural population during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Honourable Prime Minister (HPM) Sheikh Hasina on Thursday announced the additional package, which will be given to four state entities: Palli Shanchay Bank, Probashi Kalyan Bank, Karmasangsthan Bank and Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF). Each entity will receive $58 million for distribution as loans among the target groups. The additional package takes the total stimulus package past$11 billion mark, equivalent to 3.6% of Bangladesh’s gross domestic product.

Government cash support, benefitting 20 million people, launched

HPM Sheikh Hasina has launched the disbursement of over $141 million cash aid for 5 million poor families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Each family will get Tk $30 through directly through mobile financial services (MFSs). The government prepared the list upon advice of the local government representatives and local administration. Preference were for families who did not receive any aid so far. A total of 20 million people would receive the benefit of this assistance.

Awami League stands by people during Covid-19 crisis

Bangladesh Awami League, to supplement the efforts of the government, has stood besides the people during the Covid-19 crisis. So far, the party has distributed food aid to 12 million people and distributed cash assistances among the needy and distressed. The party and its associated organisations has also distributed soaps, sanitisers, PPEs, thermometers and is providing services like free ambulance services, telemedicine, free vegetables markets and cutting the wheat for farmers where there are worker shortages. Over 200 professional, social and religious organisations have also received support from the party so far.

Social and Physical Distancing

Bangladesh introduces e-justice in the time of corona

Information technology has ushered in a new era in Bangladesh’s judiciary with the launch of e-justice amid the coronavirus pandemic. This week lawyers filed pleas for urgent hearing in courts remotely via video conferencing. As of Wednesday, the country’s lower courts granted bail to 144 suspects after hearing more than 150 petitions via video conferencing in two days after the introduction of e-justice system. The e-justice procedure started all over the country on Monday through the submission of the petitions after Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain issued directives on conducting court proceedings remotely and following the passing of the necessary legal reform last week by the government.

Bangladesh extends holidays and movement restrictions until May 30

The government has announced a number of restrictions on movement as it plans to extend the general holidays to curb the spread of coronavirus. During this time, the movement of people and running of vehicles from one district to another and from one sub-district to another will be monitored and controlled strictly by the local administrations and law enforcement agencies. The existing directions like remaining in respective homes and refraining from going outside without emergency purpose from 8pm till 6am shall continue. Shops will be allowed to remain open after ensuring social distance only and following health guidelines during buying and selling.

Healthcare during Covid-19

Bangladesh scientists crack genetic sequence of novel coronavirus

The scientists of Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF), Bangladesh have sequenced the genome of a strain of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Bangladesh. Genome sequencing is the process of identifying what nucleotides -- the basic building block of DNA and RNA -- are present in a certain cell and in what order. "The SARS-CoV-2 virus cells contain RNA. RNA is made of four bases or 'letters' -- A (adenine), U (uracil), G (guanine), and C (cytosine). The SARS-CoV-2 virus is made up of almost 30,000 letters and the team had to figure out what the sequence was, said one of the scientists involved in this groundbreaking research. It is expected that this breakthrough will assist the country to tackle the novel coronavirus more effectively in a number of ways.

Health Safety: DGHS gives guidelines on reopening

The government has recently issued a set of guidelines on health and safety measures that have to be strictly followed after the reopening of industries, businesses, educational institutions and services amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) prepared the guidelines for the institutions, establishments and various professionals to prevent further spread of the deadly virus in Bangladesh. There are some common directives for all the stakeholders, including setting up of thermal scanners to check the temperature and keeping disinfectants at the entrances of every establishment. Moreover, according to the guideline, every establishment must have separate waste disposal areas and they must monitor the employees' health regularly.

Medicines: Smooth supply and price check ensured amid crisis

At a time when many sectors have come to a standstill due to the countrywide lockdown, production and supply of medicines across the country have been going off without a hitch, thanks to a timely plan of action undertaken by the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA). The planning also helped avoid a crisis of medicine as well as any hike in the drug prices during the Covid-19 outbreak. The successes have been credited largely to such steps as finding of alternative sourcing destinations for raw materials, maintaining production of supportive drugs, and providing support to the production of such assistive medicines as Remdesivir domestically.

Social Justice During Covid-19

School feeding continues at homes during pandemic

Govt officials and teachers are distributing fortified biscuits to the houses of over 3 million primary school students so that they are not deprived of nutrition while schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Each student is receiving 30-50 packets of biscuits and the distribution would be completed by 20 May. Depending on the duration of the crisis, more rounds of distribution would take place. This programme, a signature step by Hon. PM Sheikh Hasina, was started in 2010.

5,000 cultural artists to receive govt cash support

The government’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs will be providing a one-off cash support to 5,000 artists from across the country who have been badly affected by the shutdown enforced to prevent the spread of the novel corona virus. Offices of deputy commissioners, districts cultural offices and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy have started making lists of the artists in need and will soon disburse the one-off cash support.

Stipends for 13.7 million primary students restart

Distribution of stipends for some 13 million primary level students resumed this week, with the beneficiaries getting the money of October to November 2019 quarter. Upon HPM Sheikh Hasina’s approval for an extension of the project, the officials are sending the money directly to students' mothers through mobile banking services. As per the HPM's instruction, from January instalment, the amount of stipend will increase by 50%, and each primary student will receive a yearly amount worth $10 for buying school supplies. From January instalment each student will receive $2. Two children from the same family will get $4, and three and four children will receive $5 and $6 respectively.

Economy During Covid-19

Central Bank doubles stimulus package for CMSMEs

The volume of Bangladesh Bank (BB) funded three refinancing schemes has been doubled to revive the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) affected by the covid-19 epidemic. The size of small enterprise refinance scheme has increased upto $175 million. Funds for refinance scheme for setting up agro-based product processing Industries in rural areas have been doubled too. The refinance scheme size for new entrepreneurs in the cottage, micro and small enterprise sector to support CMSME has also been raised.

BB announces special repo to help banks release coronavirus bailout funds

Bangladesh Bank has launched a special repo with a one-year term to boost cash flow and help the banks release the coronavirus bailout funds. The facilities will be available only for lending from the bailout packages. The central bank currently has repo with one-day, 14-day and 28-day terms. Bangladesh Bank’s auction committee will fix the rate for the special repo. The financial market regulator had in March cut the repo rate to 5.25% from 6% in an effort to boost liquidity amid the coronavirus crisis.

Bangladesh eases conditions for remittance incentives

Bangladesh Bank has relaxed the conditions for incentives on the money sent by expatriate Bangladeshis to help maintain the flow of remittances amid the coronavirus pandemic. The expatriate Bangladeshis need not show any paper for incentives on remittance up to $5,000, the central bank said in a notice on Tuesday. Those sending more than Tk$5000 will have two months to submit the papers. They will need to produce copies of their passports and appointment letters of their overseas employer to claim incentives. Those who own a business will require copies of their licences. The expatriates who have already sent money will also get the facilities. These will be effective until Dec 31, 2020.

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