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Coronavirus: Poor income drops 80% in Bangladesh

Lockdown should be partially lifted after April 25, maintaining social distancing, says expert

Md. Kamruzzaman   | 17.04.2020
Coronavirus: Poor income drops 80% in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh

The average income in the slums of Bangladeshi cities and among the rural poor has dropped by more than 80% since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, according to a survey report released on Friday.

"A total of 63 per cent of such population, including day laborers, bhangari [plastic] workers, restaurant workers, maids, transport workers, agriculture laborers, construction and factory workers, petty businessmen, shop assistants and rickshaw pullers became economically inactive during the time," said the survey findings.

The survey was jointly conducted by two independent local research centers -- the Power and Participation Research Center and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development -- and included 5,471 households in urban slums and rural areas earlier in April.

Currently, over 3,300 slums in the capital Dhaka house around 646,000 people, mostly comprising of poor day laborers and rickshaw drivers, while more than 70% of the country's 165 million people live in rural areas. Of the total population, 20% live under the poverty line, according to government data.

The survey said that some 40% of the poor population and 35% of the vulnerable non-poor have already reduced their food consumption to cope with the situation amid the pandemic.

It added that per capita income in the slums had dropped by 82% to 27 Bangladeshi takas ($0.32) during the survey week from 108 takas ($1.30) in February, while per-capita income among the rural poor declined by 79% to 33 takas ($0.39) from 89 takas ($1.05).

Warning possible deterioration by the end of April, it recommended for 5,600 takas [$67] to be immediately distributed per month to each poor family.

'Lockdown must end'

Abu Ahmed, an economist at the University of Dhaka, told Anadolu Agency that the government must partially withdraw the countrywide lockdown after April 25, the deadline of the existing shutdown.

"Our economy is not strong like the European or Western countries and without a functioning the economy we are unable to provide relief to such a huge amount of people for long," Ahmed said.

He added: "If the existing full lockdown extends further, it will exhaust the country's food reserves. So, the government should use its full efforts to maintain social distancing and partially lift the lockdown so that poor people can earn their livelihood."

"[Otherwise] our reserve fund will be finished, the price of the [U.S.] dollar against the local currency will be increased and there is the risk that huge numbers of poor people will die due to starvation," warned Ahmed.

He warned that if reserves of rice, the country's staple food item, are depleted, exporting countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and India would hike the price. "And in that case, Bangladesh will fall in a serious crisis and that will be more dangerous than coronavirus."

Bangladesh on Friday reported its highest daily confirmed deaths at 15, bringing the total fatalities to 75. Total infections stand at 1,838 with 266 new cases.

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