There was little doubt that Covid-19 would eventually affect more than the health of the people, given the pervasive grip of the virus. Every aspect of the economy would be seriously affected by the deadly pandemic. The situation would be further exacerbated by the fact that almost all countries will have been affected by it once the pandemic is over. We had said not long ago in these very pages that the country would be counting the costs and grappling to come out of the whirlpool long after the last cured patient of Covid-19 has left the hospital, or the last unfortunate victim of the virus has been interred.
Our fears have come to be validated by a study published recently that presents us with very ominous predictions about more than half the population of the country. These are the low income and extremely poor people, some newly indigent, which is about 53 million people. The number of people facing high economic risks stands at more than 47 million, and those facing high health risks total more than 36 million, according to the survey. Both the formal and informal sectors have been adversely affected, with the prospects of high foreign remittance growing dim as a large number of expatriate workers have returned home.
According to a joint study led by Brac, DataSense and Unyan Sammanya, and participated in by several universities and think-tanks, and the International Monetary Fund, more than 100 million people are facing high economic and health risks in Bangladesh, with 74 percent of the families already struggling to survive having seen their income go down; job loss due to the pandemic being one of the contributing factors.
We feel that the government's job is well cut out so far as the next budget is concerned. Not only the study, but other eminent economists and experts also have some very appropriate and doable suggestions that ought to be considered seriously. The focus, as they suggest, has to be on the agricultural and health sectors. Food and cash support should be given for those in the lower layers of the economic pyramid just to survive. The health sector needs more than the one percent of GDP, as evidenced by the pathetic conditions betrayed by the pandemic, not to forget subsidies to the medium and small enterprises. Equally important is the government's allocational efficiency and the prevention of wasteful expenditures.