With the coronavirus forcing more shutdowns across the country as well as the world, businesses and the economy, which have already been negatively affected, are bound to be hampered further. We have seen governments in countries around the world, such as the United States and others rallying behind their businesses and coming up with largescale relief packages to support their economies. And that is something that our government must also do.
During her address to the nation on March 25, the prime minister announced a stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore for the export-oriented industries to fight the adverse impact of coronavirus on the country's economy. We welcome the timely action and hope that it will provide some respite to our businesses and help them pay the wages of their workers on time. The Bangladesh Bank will also ease some restrictions on companies, such as refraining from declaring any customer a loan defaulter till June. The timeframe for realising export earnings has been increased to six months from two months, and the timeframe for meeting import expenses has been increased to six months from four months. Certain assistance from paying utility service related bills will also provide businesses with some breathing space.
The prime minister also announced that low-income people would be provided assistance under the "Return-to-Home" programme and VGD, VGF and rice for Tk 10 per kg programmes would be continued with free medicine and treatment. All of this will certainly help the people suffering heavily during this moment of crisis.
However, we must emphasise the need to ensure that aid is provided to the right people at the right time. Previously, we have seen instances of government aid going to the wrong hands, and we hope no one will try to take advantage of the proposed government schemes for their own benefit, at the expense of ordinary people, who are currently in desperate need of assistance. Should there be a need for further relief packages, we hope the government will not hesitate to provide them, especially to the poorer sections of society and people working in the informal sector such as day labourers and rickshaw pullers, who are surely the most vulnerable under the prevailing circumstances.