Bangladesh to roll out five-year development plan in November after virus hitch

The term of the Seventh Five-Year Plan ended in June, but the government failed to finalise a new plan by then as the coronavirus pandemic gripped Bangladesh.

The General Economics Division of the Planning Commission (GED) will now present a draft of the Eighth Five-Year Plan for the final approval of the National Economic Council in November.

The government is emphasising a universal health insurance scheme, a strategy to create jobs in the export and informal sectors to redress the economic fallout from the pandemic and alleviate poverty, in the new plan.

The GED was working on the last phases of the draft when the coronavirus hit Bangladesh, according to its chief Md Mafidul Islam.

Now the draft is in the final stage and it will be tabled at an NEC meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina next month, he said.

The targets set in the draft is very important because these must create opportunities for Bangladesh to take another step towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Vision 2041 to transform the country into a developed one, said the GED chief.

Large-scale job creation in the post-coronavirus economy is seen as the biggest challenge by the planners, a GED official said.

The draft stresses the need for a universal health insurance scheme through the concerted efforts of the government and private sector, and to train health workers to tackle any pandemic in future.

To address poverty and inequality, the draft plan includes steps to ensure quality education and nutrition for children, cash funds for the poor, development of rural infrastructure, electrification, and introduction of a modern tax system.

Jobs could not be created for the general public at the same rate as GDP growth in recent years, the draft points out. It includes a strategy to create jobs in the production and construction sectors.

The plan aims to increase GDP growth to 8.51 percent by 2025 and cut inflation to 4.8 percent, gradually.

It also sets a per capita income target of $3,106.

To uplift people from poverty, the plan emphasises inclusive growth through labour-based export-oriented industries and the diversification of agricultural products.

Besides these, the draft plan stresses bringing dynamism in small and medium entrepreneurship, strengthening the modern services sector and labour export.

It says the investment to GDP ratio should be improved to 37.4 percent - 28.2 percent from the private sector, 3 percent directly from foreigners and 9.2 percent from the government - to create the expected number of jobs. Currently, the GDP-investment ratio is 31.6 percent.

The plan also targets improving the savings to GDP ratio to 34 percent from 29.5 percent and slash the spending to GDP ratio to 70.3 percent, from 75 percent.