Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's private sector adviser Salman F Rahman has said the country's export-oriented factories must begin to open slowly and by maintaining necessary health protocols in order to save the economy.
"We have to take a decision. We have the Sweden model in front of us; they did not enforce lockdown. In China's Wuhan, a second wave of infections is taking place. Germany and France are still suffering, new infections and deaths are happening, but still they are opening up their factories," he said.
"We have to know how our economy will suffer, what is our health risk. But we must open our economy gradually by taking precautions," said the adviser to the PM.
He asked the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) to prepare a guideline on how this could be done.
Salman F Rahman said this at a discussion organised by the FBCCI yesterday. Business leaders, economists, editors and policymakers joined the discussion. The business leader had joined the discussion virtually.
The session was moderated by FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Fahim.
The discussion was also attended by the leaders of DCCI, BGMEA, BKMEA, BTMA, Editors' Guilds, ATCO and various business chambers and associations.
Sheikh Fahim said the government was talking to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global bodies to prepare the health protocols so that opening up factories could be done in line with global standards.
Rubana Huq, president of the BGMEA, said they were under pressure to allow opening of 856 factories.
She said global buyers had cancelled orders worth more than $3 billion and now it was crucial to reopen the factories.
She also suggested opening up the factories zone-wise, in a limited way and under a decided timeframe.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the importers were facing troubles at the Chittagong port as they were not being able to get clearance because of limited office hours of the shipping agents and procedural delay by the customs.
Small and medium enterprises in Chattogram do business worth about Tk 37,000 crore in the month of Ramadan, but this time they are suffering because of coronavirus outbreak.
He requested the FBCCI to make some arrangements so that the SMEs can do business by taking health precautions.
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, said the FBCCI, BGMEA and other sectors should work together to prepare sector-based health protocols under which the factories could be reopened.
He appreciated the government-announced stimulus package to deal with the impact of coronavirus, but said the amount should be increased.
The discussion was also attended by former FBCCI presidents AK Azad, Mir Nasir Hossain, Matlub Ahmad, Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam, Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, DBC News CEO Manjurul Islam, Ekattor TV Chief Mozammel Babu, Banik Barta Editor Dewan Hanif Mahmud, Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta and business and chamber leaders from Khulna, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Rangpur, Jamalpur.