Who is to pay for the loss of BD due to ensuing global recession!
The world is going to face global health crisis unlike ever before in the past 75 years of history of the United Nations, said UN Secretary General. He also said that 'a global recession is a near certainty'. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has reported that workers around the world could lose as much as $3.4 trillion in income by the end of this year. From the above prediction, it is almost certain that we are heading for global recession and a country like Bangladesh, inevitably, would be one of the worst sufferers.
Bangladesh's foreign currency earning is dependent on two main sources - first, the international labour market and second, the Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector. Both are now under tremendous threat from the outbreak of Covid-19. The helpless workers around the world being threatened by the uncertainties caused by Covid-19 have been laid off by the owners of different business entities. They are now desperately trying to return home while raising concerns of spreading Coronavirus in the country.
These workforces, neglected but essential, were the backbone in a number of major industries around the world, such as, construction, tourism, hospitality and facilitated the growth of local and international tourism. Since the tourism industry is bracing for a financial plunge due to the monumental impact of Covid-19, these workers have become a burden for their employers in respective countries. The clout of Covid-19 pandemic has also impacted the RMG sector which has clearly been expressed by BGMEA President Dr Rubana Huq.
Bangladesh being an unfortunate country in Asia is already vulnerable to the serious threats of global warming. Environmentalists have placed Bangladesh within ten countries of the world that would be worst affected due to the sea level rise. Even though Bangladesh has been making steady progress towards the vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to make the country 'Sonar Bangla' - a developed nation by 2041, this new invisible enemy with her full strength will throw significant challenges at our development plan.
Why should Bangladesh suffer in achieving her goal time and again for no fault of hers? Is it not a legitimate right of our citizens to seek financial assistance for this ensuing disastrous consequence when Bangladesh is not at all a contributor rather she is the unfortunate recipient of the ripple effect? Now the big question is who will take responsibility for this crisis and support the less fortunate countries like Bangladesh to battle against the recession?
To answer this question, some facts and data will be able to help us find some logical understanding. It is well established fact that China is the world's largest contributing country to CO2 emissions, producing 9.8 billion metric tons of C02. Now the presumption among many people in the world that Covid-19 has been originated in China. Although China had claimed that it originated from US, let us have a brief look at the origin of coronavirus to assess who is responsible.
According to Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, 'it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan'. His statement has some merit, if not fully, when we see the developments according to some Chinese officials, in search of 'patient zero'. The first Chinese patient of Covid-19 was identified on 17 November 2019 in Wuhan (Huanan seafood market) which was identified, parenthetically, soon after the visit of 300 US military in Wuhan Military Game in October 2019. Quoting US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, Zhao told that some deaths by coronavirus had already been discovered posthumously in the US which was previously thought as flu.
Incidentally it happened at a time when Fort Detrick, in Maryland, which had been the epicentre of the US Army's bio-weapons research since the beginning of the Cold War, was ordered to be shut down in August 2019 in anticipation of possible breakout of virus. The CDC- the government's public health body - stripped the base of its license to handle highly restricted "select agents", which includes Ebola, smallpox and anthrax. The chronology of above incidents could easily convince someone that the coronavirus might have originated in US.
However, it is puzzling to see that the virus which originated from US has spread amongst Chinese people, affecting more than 90,000, whereas in Maryland the virus is yet to attack seriously. On the contrary, China failed to pay heed to the warning given by the whistle-blower, Dr Li Wenliang, who alerted the public about the coronavirus via social media in December 2019. Hence, one could make a logical reasoning that the coronavirus may have originated in the seafood market at Wuhan.
The hybrid war between US and China on Covid-19 will continue for years in order to take the economic advantages and soon they will recuperate from their economic loss or the global recession due to Covid-19 pandemic. China has already recovered from the coronavirus and has been preparing to reposition herself to cope with the ensuing worldwide recession. The recession could be a turning point in reshaping the world order. From the last Global Financial Crisis from 2008-10, US is still transitioning from bailout recovery.
That recovery period gave China the opportunity to build its economy at the fastest pace than any other developed countries. We are yet to see how the whole world recovers from the ensuing recession. When the world is already experiencing the consequences of global warming and is now forced to tackle the imminent global recession because of Covid-19 pandemic; China appears to be contributing foremost to both crises and thereby responsible for bringing all the nations of the world to a grinding halt. Interestingly, in both cases, China has succeeded in placing herself in relatively advantageous position in achieving her goals over other nations.
Under this complex circumstance, will China be willing to support Bangladesh? Despite Bangladesh making all its stride to maintain good relationship with China, we have seen that China didn't support Bangladesh on the issue of Rohingya crisis. It is well understood that China will never prioritise Bangladesh's interest over Myanmar. However, on the issue of fighting against Corona virus crisis, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has expressed his opinion to stand beside Bangladesh. But what about economic recession?
Can we also expect that China will support Bangladesh to overcome the impending recession? Is Bangladesh in a position to ask for financial assistance from China to combat the global recession that we are going to face as predicted by UN? China, a mighty nation hungry for achieving regional supremacy and global power, is unlikely to prioritise the interest of Bangladesh. To protect our national interest, Bangladesh may resort to its diplomatic means to get other regional countries to collaborate and unite for the common cause of surviving the incumbent recession.
The writer is commodore, Bangladesh Navy (Retd). He is the Director General, Bangladesh Institute of Maritime Research and Development (BIMRAD).