Two years after the outbreak of coronavirus, district level businessmen have raised questions as to where the stimulus allocated by the government has gone. They did not even get a wee share of the government's allocation of more than Tk 1250 billion of stimulus. An agitated businessman said that they did not know who received the money and when. It can be construed that the district level traders did not get an iota of the government stimulus.
During the talks with the leaders of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI), they also raised serious allegations of harassment and lawsuits executed by revenue officials in the name of tax and VAT collection. According to Bangladesh Bank, the government has announced 23 financial stimulus packages in various sectors to address the potential economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The total amount of the stimulus package is Tk 1283.03 billion.
The district level businessmen's statements were supported by FBCCI president Jasim Uddin. He says the government is allocating money, but the real businessmen are not getting it. It is a kind of conspiracy. FBCCI officials should also know if there is a conspiracy over the stimulus. The money was disbursed by the bank. The government has an account of how much money a bank has given and to whom. Even then the FBCCI remained mysteriously silent on the matter for so long.
It is true that the government's stimulus to keep the country's economy afloat during the corona period is working very efficiently. Many sectors, including the export-oriented ready-made garment industry, have turned around. But it is unfortunate that most of the entrepreneurs in the labour intensive small and medium enterprises did not get any stimulus. The South Asian Network of Economic Modeling (SANEM) reports that 72 per cent of businesses did not receive money from the government's announced stimulus package to address the corona crisis.
Most of them are small and medium entrepreneurs. Only 19 per cent of the businesses taking part in survey received stimulus. Although large companies receive more money, only 8 per cent of 301 small companies and 20 per cent of medium companies have received this benefit. According to the research firm Policy Exchange, 83 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) affected in corona are deprived of government incentives.
The government had announced a stimulus package of Tk 230 billion to support the sector. But due to structural complexity, banks have disbursed very few loans under this package. Banks have been reluctant to provide small loans as interest rates on stimulus loans are low. In addition, many small entrepreneurs have not been able to show necessary documents to obtain a loan.
Complaints received from district level traders regarding stimulus and tax-VAT should be taken seriously. The FBCCI should not only look for conspiracies but also take steps so that the affected small traders can get loans.
The government should stop simply boosting the big businesses, but also assist the small and medium industries. It should be kept in mind that most of the working people of the country depend on these small and medium industries.