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Coronavirus: TIB calls for national strategy, special fund equivalent to 10% of GDP

  • Published at 10:09 pm March 28th, 2020
The logo of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Collected

TIB also calls for ensuring the highest standards of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the strategy, emphasizing financial transparency

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has called for the development of a national strategy encapsulating short, medium, and long-term action plans to manage and steer the recovery process from socio-economic setbacks being caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bangladeshi branch of the Berlin-based Transparency International, a civil society organization dedicated to fighting against corruption, recommended that a special fund be set up for this purpose, equivalent to at least 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Noting that management of any crisis like this was always susceptible to corruption, TIB also called for ensuring the highest standards of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the strategy, with particular emphasis on financial transparency in all stages and aspects.

Recalling that in a speech to the nation on March 25, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had called the situation a national crisis that needed collective action, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB, said: “There is no scope for complacence by relying on home quarantine and on some measures which are visibly insufficient and uncoordinated.”

“Now is the time to develop a national strategy, by involving relevant national and international experts in the process, that will contain short, medium, and long term plans of action.  At the same time, a special fund should be set up, equivalent to at least 10 percent of GDP, for managing the crisis and steering the process of recovery from the socio-economic setback being inflicted during the crisis,” said Dr Iftekharuzzaman in a statement.

He stated that the capacity to detect infection and treatment must be enhanced and decentralized sooner rather than later, and healthcare professionals must get protective equipment and their invaluable services duly recognized.

Praising the prime minister’s initiative in coming to the aid of workers in the export oriented sectors and also poverty-stricken people, the TIB executive director said: “The process of implementing this important initiative, including how its benefits will reach the workers, must be clearly defined without delay. Similarly, the reach of such initiatives must be expanded to equally include the ultra-poor.”

“Other disadvantaged sections of society, especially low-income groups like day labourers, farmers, rickshaw pullers, domestic workers, small traders and self-employed people who have already become or may soon become jobless cannot be forgotten either,” he added.

During this crisis, the supply chain of food and daily essentials must remain active despite all restrictions,  a failure to ensure which may cause human sufferings and deaths in addition to the death toll caused by Covid-19 itself. 

The reported indecent abuse of power by a section of police personnel in the name of enforcing home quarantine has heightened public despair, which must be stopped, the statement said.

“It is only natural that in a crisis like this, along with enhanced responsibility, the authority of the government and government agencies tends to increase. Nevertheless, in the end it is the people with whom the source of this expanded authority rests,” TIB executive director said.

 He added: “TIB expects the government and relevant institutions to be mindful that abuse of power by crossing limits turns out counterproductive. All measures must be ensured to prevent any violation of people’s basic rights, especially right to life and livelihood, freedom of speech and opinion, and right to information.”

TIB, in calling upon the government to create a special fund amounting to at least 10 percent of GDP, noted that an appropriate slicing of allocations for mega-projects may be considered, if needed.

In addition to government efforts, TIB urged the affluent sections of society to proactively contribute to the relief measures. 

“A section of the business community and industrialists have thrived from time to time, owing to various forms of advantages granted by the government at the cost of public exchequer. At this critical stage, we want to believe that they will take their turn to act with a sense of responsibility in public interest,” said Iftekharuzzaman.

In this connection, TIB also drew the attention of multinational companies, foreign investors and businesses as well as regional, international organizations and bilateral and multilateral development partners of Bangladesh. 

“They have stakes in the development and socio-economic stability of Bangladesh. Many of them have benefited and will benefit from their interest and operation in the country. We call upon them to stand by Bangladesh today in their self-interest,” the statement said.

Above all, TIB stated that in order to confront such a huge challenge effectively, there was no alternative to ensuring the highest standard of transparency and accountability. 

Unrestricted and regularly updated disclosure of information must be ensured, especially in terms of detailed sources and itemized allocation and expenses of funds as well as purposes and processes. 

Particular care must be taken through robust and rigorous oversight to prevent any form of corruption in the management of this national crisis. 

On the other hand, a deficit of trust in the information provided by the relevant public institutions is feeding rumours, leading to further panic, according to TIB.

Detailed and specific data on matters such as tests, infections, deaths, treatment and recoveries must be unrestrictedly disclosed for public information which will help people to prepare themselves better. It would also enhance public trust in the government and the relevant agencies, said the TIB statement.

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