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Easy access to finance for smaller enterprises is required for employment generation and economic recovery during and after the pandemic, experts said on Saturday.

They also called for creating a proper database of the labour market situation in the country to formulate time-befitting policies and provide financial and technical support to jobless people to integrate them in economic activity.

The suggestion came at a discussion organised online by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling or SANEM.


Chaired by Planning Commission member Professor Shamsul Alam, ILO country director in Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen addressed the programme as the special guest where SANEM research director Dr. Sayema Haque Bidisha presented the keynote paper.

Policy Research Institute executive director Dr. Ahsan H. Mansur, SANEM executive director Dr. Selim Raihan, and Institute of Governance and Development executive director Dr. Imran Matin spoke as the panelists at the event.

Dr. Mansur said currently, the country is facing three challenges: containing the spread of the COVID-19 disease; issue of unemployment and livelihood; and supporting the recovery of the economy.

Since the economy has been opening up gradually, the trend in recovery is quite slow, he said.

Expressing concern over the investment scenario, he said, "The private sector may not invest until the pandemic situation gets better." "Public sector is expected to pick up, but there are issues of resources," he added.

The key problem for the public sector investment is linked to the target of revenue collection and reality in collection activities.

Talking about stimulus packages, Dr Mansur said, "While the stimulus packages for big businesses are being disbursed quickly, a delay has been observed in disbursing the stimulus packages for SMEs."

The disbursement of loans for SMEs must be expedited and bureaucratic complexities should be undone in that regard, he added.

Explaining the necessity of a focused recovery strategy, Dr. Mansur said attracting the investments moving out of China should be a part of Bangladesh's post-pandemic economic recovery strategy.

Dr Raihan said in the short to medium-term, the future of economy looks bleak and the depressing effects on employment and wages may continue.

He said the government policy response related to the current labour market has been weak and inadequate mainly due to lack of information and lack of up to date data of the labour market.

He recommended under the current crisis, the government should go for an enlarged deficit budget to spend high on social safety net programmes in general.

Dr. Raihan suggested the government form a 'Labour and Employment Commission,' which will assess the current unprecedented situation and suggested necessary measures.

Emphasising public employment programmes, Mr Poutiainen said the stimulus should not only be for large businesses, but also focus on employment-generating sectors.

He also said the creation of an information system on labour market is crucial where regular update has to be made.

"Such a system can be linked with job matching and job placement," he said.

In his concluding speech, Professor Alam said small and medium enterprises or SMEs were offered loans at 4.5 per cent interest rate under the stimulus package while the government will subsidise other 5.5 per cent of the loan.

Terming access to finance more important for small businesses, he said, since the prices of some products produced by such enterprises are relatively high, question has been raised as to why interest rate should be reduced further.

Mentioning increased labour productivity both in rural and urban areas, he said technical education is important to meet the requirement for the country's fast-growing industries.

In the keynote presentation, Dr Bidisha said the challenges of creating jobs during pandemic includes fall in domestic demand, fall in global demand, the influx of labour supply due to returning migrants, restricted productive activities and slow pace of private investment.

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