Nationwide Lockdown: Govt taking steps for cash, food aid for the poor
The government is working to take necessary measures to provide cash assistance and food, including rice, edible oil and other commodities to poor who are affected during the countrywide "strict lockdown" to be imposed from Thursday.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal yesterday said the government was taking necessary steps in this regard.
Hewas addressing a virtual press briefing following the meetings of cabinet committees on economic affairs and government purchases.
Regarding the government measures to address the impact of the fresh lockdown on the urban poor and temporary labourers, the minister said, "I believe that we are well-prepared to take care of them."
There is a separate committee supervised by the prime minister to look after this issue, he added.
"I believe we will be able to identify the affected poor and required assistance will be provided.
Preferring anonymity, a finance ministry official said the PM may announce the government's steps for the poor people in her speech concluding the budget on June 29.
The official added that two funds, amounting to Tk 12,000 crore, have been set up under the social safety net programmes in the new budget, and that money can be allocated from these funds for such programmes.
Meanwhile, the disaster management and relief ministry is planning to provide food support to the poor during the lockdown.
An official at the ministry said they have plan to provide assistance like what they did during the countrywide "shutdown" following the first wave of Covid-19 last year.
During a special period like lockdown, they usually provide a packet having seven commodities -- 10 kilogram of rice, lentil, edible oil, dry food like noodles and others.
They have started preparing a list in this regard, he informed.
The food will be distributed among the poor across the country with the help of local administrations and representatives.
After issuing the government gadget on the lockdown, they would issue a circular regarding their steps
The national hotline – 333 – would be launched to provide humanitarian assistance and food to the needy, he added.
The finance minister earlier told The Daily Star that they were preparing a list of poor people with the help of local administrations and representatives.
Despite suggestions from experts, the minister said the government will not take help from the NGOs in this regard.
FINANCE MINISTER'S BRIEFING
In reply to a question about further extending the time for loan payment to RMG factory owners under a stimulus package, Kamal yesterday said no decision has been taken yet in this regard.
Mentioning that the time for the payment would expire on June 30, he said, "The prime minister is looking into the matter. I also personally spoke to Bangladesh Bank's governer."
"Let's see if we can manage within the deadline."
Regarding the projection targets in the current fiscal year, he said the most difficult task of generating revenue saw a 17 percent growth, while there is also growth in the foreign exchange reserves.
Many assumed that there would be no remittance inflow but the opposite happened, as expatriate workers maintained the inflow of remittance against all odds.
It is outstanding that a highest ever amount of $25 billion came as remittance in a year, the minister added.
About vaccine availability with the rise in Covid-19 cases, he said he was concerned about getting vaccines.
"Vaccination is a must and it needs to be assured as fast as possible. The government is working on it. Hopefully, there would be a solution soon."
Regarding the planning minister's remark on "polishing the budget" for the next year, Kamal said he did not understand it.
Responding to a question, he said, "You need to ask the planning minister about what he meant."
He added that the proposals of the planning ministry had been accepted while formulating the budget.
"As I don't know what comments the honourable planning minister actually made and on what basis, it is not good for me to make any comment right now."
Addressing a webinar on Friday, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year "should be polished".