English language What the papers say

Vulnerable temporary workers to miss out on new scheme

A new government scheme to support the livelihoods of tea workers covers the formally employed but excludes temporary workers.

Growth in 2021 was 1.51% higher than originally estimated. There are plenty of theories to explain this higher than expected growth. But some economists struggle to explain the figures.

Bangladesh is by some measures the most polluted country in the world. The country is struggling to improve air quality through adequate legislation.

Bangladesh will soon have vaccinated 100 million people with a first dose of Covid vaccine. The target is 120 million or about three quarters of the population.

A weekly round up of articles about work, employment, social security, business and the economy. Here is the news for the week ending:

February 10th, 2022

This week’s round up comes from:

The Daily Star

This week in Bangladesh…

Temporary tea pickers excluded from new government scheme (original image by Danurwendho Adyakusuma, Unsplash)

Will the Government exclude temporary workers in the Bangladesh tea industry from a new support programme?

Official statistics estimate there are about 36,000 temporary workers in the industry compared to 100,000 permanent employees.

The Government scheme will support permanent workers but not the more vulnerable in temporary employment.

Neither unions nor politicians seem to actively support the rights of this vulnerable group of workers.

Is this because both union leaders and locally elected politicians seem to rely mostly on the votes of permanent workers?

News in Bangladesh for the week ending February 10th, 2022

Education, Work, and Social Security

Social protection for temporary workers in the tea industry

Will informally engaged workers miss out again?

A new government scheme to support the livelihoods of tea workers covers formally employed workers but excludes temporary employees.

Temporary or informally employed workers are the most vulnerable to economic and health shocks. The pandemic has affected employment Some sectors – such as RMG – have recovered but other sectors are still struggling.

Official statistics say there are around 100,000 permanent and about 36,000 temporary employees in the tea sector. But the statistics may underestimate the number of temporary employees.

Could union representatives and locally elected officials do more to support these temporary workers?

Quay Asia has supported temporary and informal workers through thought leadership and through innovative collaborations with large manufacturing industries.

Business, Economy and Trade

Mystery behind economic growth

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) calculates gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.94% in the last fiscal year (to 30 June 2021).

That is 1.51% higher than the provisional growth estimate!

It’s a miracle that our GDP growth surged to nearly 7 per cent whild many other coutnries took a hit.

M A Mannan, Bangladesh Minister for Planning

State Minister for Planning, Professor Shamsul Alam, explains that growth was driven by exports and remittances.

And Professor Mustafizur Rahman at the Centre for Policy Dialogue believes that Bangladesh took some advantage from the pandemic by not going into lockdown.

But another economist, Zahid Hussain – formerly with The World Bank, is surprised by the upward revision. Macroeconomic factors and standard approaches to calculating GDP do not support the unexpected growth.

RMG Industry insider questions WTO Report

In his Daily Star column, Mostafiz Uddin, Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited, is skeptical about a recent World Trade Organization Report

The report claims that China and Vietnam are critical sources of apparel. But Bangladesh is among a group of more lowly regarded apparel producing countries.

Mostafiz challenges the favourable view of Vietnam and makes the case that Bangladesh has progressed rapidly in terms of industry excellence. For example, there are 155 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified green factories in Bangladesh. The highest number in the world.

Read his thoughts here.

Climate, Energy and Environment

Pollution never the price for prosperity

Bangladesh must enact the “Clean Air Act” to address the damage to people’s health due to air pollution.

Around two lakh people die due to air pollution …. Public health should be treated as a priority in the upcoming budget

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, President of the parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change

Saber Hossain Chowdhury was chief guest.

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Bangladesh Lung Foundation and The Daily Star organised a webinar to discuss the findings of recent air pollution survey.

The Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) at Stamford University Bangladesh conducted the study entitled “Atmospheric Survey of 64 Districts across the Country.”

According to the CAPS study, we did not experience fresh air for even one week of a year since 2015. How many years can we sit back and suffer due to such horrific health hazards? The draft of the law to regulate air quality, the “Clean Air Act”, has been lying idle for a long time. The government must enact it as soon as possible.

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive – Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change drafted The Clean Air Act in 2019 but Parliament has yet to debate or approve the Act. Is Bangladesh committed to addressing air pollution?

Meanwhile, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released the draft Air Pollution Control Rules 2021.

The Rules are available in Bengali here.

Al Gore former American vice-president and environmentalist coined the phrase “pollution should never be the price for prosperity.”

Al Gore is the founder and current chair of the Climate Reality Project.

The most polluted air in the world

According to IQAir, Bangladesh is the most polluted country in the world using date on particulate matter. Known as PM2.5, these particles and droplets up to 2.5 microns are dangerous to health.

IQAir is the world’s largest free real-time air quality information (AQI) platform.

Financial Inclusion and Services for the Poor

Prime minister encourages expat workers to take loans

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina encourages people to take a loan from a dedicated bank for overseas workers – Probashi Kallyan Bank – to support the cost of expatriation.

The Prime Minister expressed concerns that workers looking to go overseas were selling land to pay for these costs.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous employment brokers have been taking advantage of people looking for work by charging fees far in excess of the stipulated amounts to secure positions.

The Government plans to improve communications about the arrangements for going overseas for work. This should prevent future exploitation.

Covid Update

Earlier this week homeless people started receiving vaccinations

Since November last year school children over 12 have received vaccines.

Mass vaccinations started a year ago on 7th February.

And to date nearly 100 million people have received one dose. The target is 1.2 million.

About 65 million people have had a second dose.

Currently the Government is administering second doses to 700,000 people per day and first doses to 300,000. Nearly 70,000 are receiving booster doses every day.