For small businesses to sustain, Tk4,000 crore is needed as loan incentive, otherwise small traders will suffer and go below the poverty line during the coronavirus pandemic, said Helal Uddin, president of Bangladesh Dokan Malik Samity in an interview with Dhaka Tribune's Bilkis Irani.
What challenges are small traders facing during the Covid-19 crisis?
Small traders will simply perish if no effective measures are taken. The main challenge is to keep their businesses alive amid this pandemic. They are facing a supply shortage, as well as no income generation. They do business to survive and keep the country's economy afloat. If there is no small trader, there will be no big trader either.
How can the upcoming budget support the disrupted supply chain?
Both international and domestic supply chain is disrupted amid the coronavirus pandemic. Imported products cannot be brought and the country's ports cannot take in the products. The load intake capacity of the ports should increase in Khulna and Mongla.
Although we are one of the three largest vegetable-producing countries in the world, we cannot export and almost half of the vegetables are wasted due to lack of transportation. After the end of the pandemic, the food crisis will likely begin across the world. An exclusive transportation system like those for ambulances and newspaper supply should be developed to reach vegetables to consumers. Additionally, at least one multipurpose cold storage should be built in every upazila.
What can the budget do for those incurring losses in business due to Covid-19?
The government already took some initiatives to help in the form of stimulus packages. If the quantity of relief aid increases, it would be better.
Traders will need soft loans with low-interest rates so that they can survive this ordeal.
What amount of losses did the small and large traders incur due to Covid-19?
The contribution of small business to the GDP is 24.60%. If sales of 5.3 million small enterprises are Tk20,000 and profit is 10% on average, the amount of loss per day is Tk1,100 crore. It reached Tk66,000 crore now in the last two months.
Meanwhile, it is not possible for us to calculate the loss of our capital. But the government has already announced stimulus packages of a total of Tk1 lakh crore. This clearly shows the capability of our state.
To overcome this loss all shops need to reopen while maintaining safety since we have to live with this pandemic for a long time. Besides, Tk4,000 crore is needed as a soft loan to continue with business.
Is the package that the government announced enough?
The prime minister took initiatives to give Tk2,500 to each pandemic sufferer including small traders, but it is yet to be implemented.
Are any steps being taken to keep prices stable amid the pandemic?
There is no scope to increase the price if the supply chain is stable. Millers and middlemen hoard, manipulate and increase the price. Like other countries, the Tariff Commission should monitor purchasing price, selling price and reasons behind price hikes. Transportation costs should also be fixed so that no one could hike prices citing natural disasters or other calamities.
Will the price of the import-related product go up? What should be done if it goes up?
Prices of imported products depend on inflation rates. Increasing prices should match with inflation rates. In this case, the government should undertake strict surveillance to control it.