Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s private industry and investment adviser Salman F Rahman on Saturday said the country’s export-oriented factories must be reopened slowly by maintaining necessary health protocol to save the economy.
“We’ve to take a decision. We’ve a Sweden model in front of us, they didn’t enforce lockdown. In China’s Wuhan, a second wave of infection 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.
Salman Rahman further said, “We’ve to know how our economy will suffer, what’s our health risk. But we must open up our economy gradually by taking precautions.”
He came up with the remarks at a discussion organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
Business leaders, economists, editors and policymakers joined the discussion, said a press release.
Salman Rahman asked the FBCCI to prepare a guideline on how it could be done.
He joined the discussion virtually through Zoom. It 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 FBCCI was working with the Finance and Commerce ministries, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Bangladesh Bank and various trade associations regarding the reopening factories.
He said the government was talking to the World Health Organization (WHO), ILO and other global bodies to prepare health protocols so that opening up factories could be done in line with global standard.
Rubana Huq, president of the BGMEA, said they were under pressure to allow reopening 856 factories.
She said global buyers have cancelled more than $3 billion of orders and now it was crucial to open up the factories.
She said they want to open the factories zone-wise on a limited scale 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 Seaport as they were not being able to get clearance because of limited office hours of the shipping agents and procedural delay by the customs.
“Because of that the importers are being fined, per container the fine is sometimes $70, it is increasing the cost of business. I want the offices of the shipping agents be extended by two hours to 3:00 pm instead of 1:00 pm,” he said.
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, said the industrial areas and the whole country should be categorised in red, yellow and green colours.
He said the FBCCI, BGMEA and other sectors should work together to prepare sector-based health protocols under which the factories could be opened up.
Ahsan appreciated the government-announced stimulus package to deal with the impact of coronavirus, but 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, Daily Observer editor 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.