Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has called for developing a national strategy containing short, medium and long-term action plan to manage and steer the recovery process from socio-economic setbacks being caused by the extraordinary national crisis related to Corona virus. In a statement issued to media on 28 March, 2020, it recommends that a Special Fund be set up for the purpose equivalent to at least 10 percent of GDP. Reminding that management of any crisis like this in always vulnerable to corruption, TIB also calls for ensuring the highest standards of transparency and accountability in 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 the Prime Minister declared the situation as a national crisis that needed collective action, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB said, “there is no scope of relaxing in complaisance relying on home quarantine and some visibly insufficient and uncoordinated measures. Now is the time to develop a national strategy involving relevant national and international experts that will contain short, medium and long term plan 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. The capacity to detect infection and treatment must be enhanced and decentralized across the country sooner than later. Doctors and health workers must get full protection and their valuable service duly recognized”.
Commending the Prime Minister’s initiative in aid of workers of the export-oriented sectors and ultra-poor, executive director of TIB says, “the process to implement this important initiative including how its benefits will reach the workers must be clearly defined without delay. Similarly, the remit of such initiatives must be expanded to equally include the ultra-poor. Other disadvantaged sections of the society, especially low-income groups like day-labourers, farmers, riskshaw-pullers, domestic workers, small traders and the self-employed who have already or may soon become jobless cannot be forgotten”.
During this crisis, despite all restrictions, the supply chain of food and daily essentials must remain active failing which in addition to Covid-19, quarantine itself may cause human sufferings and deaths. The reportedly confused and indecent abuse of power by a section of police personnel in the name of enforcing home quarantine have accentuated public despair, which must be stopped, the statement said.
“It is only natural that in crises like this side by side the enhanced responsibility, the authority of the government and government agencies tend to increase. Nevertheless, in the end it is the people with whom rests the source of this expanded authority. TIB expects the Government and relevant institutions to be mindful that abuse of power by crossing limits turns to be 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”, said executive director of TIB.
TIB calls upon the government to create a special fund to the tune of at least 10 percent of GDP to fuel and steer the process of recovery from the setbacks being caused some of which may be long lasting. Appropriate slicing of allocations for mega-projects, may be considered, if needed.
Parallel with government efforts, we urge upon the richer sections of the society to proactively contribute. A section of the business community and industrialists have from time to time thrived thanks to various forms of advantages granted by the government at the cost of public exchequer. At this critical stage for the nation 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 draws 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 development and socio-economic stability of Bangladesh, many whom 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 asserts that in order that such a huge challenge is confronted effectively, there is no alternative to ensuring 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 thereof. 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 institution is feeding rumours which are leading to further panic. Detailed and specific data on such matters as tests, infection, deaths, treatment and recovery must be unrestrictedly disclosed for public information which will help people to prepare themselves better. It will also enhance public trust in the government and the relevant agencies.