Bangladesh's rural economy is going to be under pressure as a significant number of people from urban areas are returning to their respective villages losing their sources of income due to Covid-19 fallout, says an expert.
"The rural economy is unlikely to be able to absorb the pressure," former caretaker government finance adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam told UNB.
He said the agricultural sector, the driving force of the rural economy, is going to be overburdened with the returnees though it contributes 15 percent to the GDP and provides 40 percent jobs.
Mirza Aziz said mechanised tools are being used for increasing productivity in the agricultural sector and their use is going up day by day, reducing the demand for farm workers.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said the rural economy would obviously be under pressure. "This pressure will continue as long as the health risk, caused by the pandemic, is there. This is going to be a huge burden on the already slowed down rural economy."
He pointed out that the large number of manpower who used to go abroad every month for jobs are now stuck in rural areas due to the current situation. "More than six lakh people used to go abroad from Bangladesh every year. They are now there in rural areas. Given the current situation, it can be said the economy is under huge pressure."
Talking about the support to the rural economy to cope with the pressure, Mirza Aziz, also a visiting professor at Brac University, said the government should help this section of people through its relief distribution measurers.
He said the novel coronavirus would hopefully disappear or its intensity would reduce in the coming months. "And at that time, we will have to put in our all-out efforts to restore the production and supply chain."
Mirza Aziz put emphasis on guiding the SME sector by the government after the Covid-19 and quick restoration of production in big industries in full swing.
Mustafizur said the government should expand its social safety net programmes to include those going back to their villages. "The cash transfer scheme can be expanded from the existing Tk 50 lakh."
He stressed the importance of spending money on renovation of rural roads and investing money in public works to engage a good number of returnees in those programmes.
"The stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore which was allocated for agri-loans should be implemented quickly so that people living in rural areas could start their economic activities which will be helpful to engage more people," he said.
Mustafiz said there would be a qualitative change in the economy, which would absorb some pressure, if the government could carry out these initiatives properly.
He, however, stressed the need for addressing the health issues at the moment. "And after that, the government should pay its attention to revamping the economy. Currently, nothing is going on for these two sectors. There is a question about the policy matters as well."