Around 8 million entrepreneurs of small and medium enterprises and 25 million employees in this sector are struggling hard to survive due to the virus pandemic and want government support to keep alive their earning sources.
Like many other countries of the world, the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of Bangladesh are now in the grip of worry and seeing bleak future as the COVID-19 is continuing to take toll along with prolonged duration, entrepreneurs and experts said.
This informal sector entrepreneurs scattered across the country, the main driving force of the country's economy, are the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the organizations are struggling for their survival as they already have incurred huge losses due to the crisis, they added.
As a result, many businesses have crumpled up during this several-month shutdown as they cannot bear the losses further, which in turn have created huge unemployment.
Hence, the government should take immediate steps to save this sector as this sector has been neglected in the fiscal 2020-21 budget, they opined.
According to the Bangladesh Shop Owners Association (BSOA), small businesses have suffered the most due to the closure of businesses amid Covid-19 crisis.
Country’s SME sector, on an average, incurred Tk 1,100 crore loss every day in the last 64 days (from March 26 to May 30). The total amount of loss has stood to Tk 70,000 crore, BSOA demanded.
Besides, the loss of traders who make pottery, sweets, clothes and other products incurred another Tk 6,000 crore loss during the last Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bengali calendar, BSOA further demanded.
A small and medium enterprise (SME) entrepreneur, Abeda Khatun told this correspondent, “The bulk of the profit usually generate during the Pahela Baishakh and the Eid-ul Fitr. This time, it has been missed due to Covid-19 crisis.”
It will be very difficult to compensate the losses this time, she added.
She said, “We are having a difficult time. If this situation continues, we will have to incur huge losses.”
Bangladesh Shop Owners Association President Mohammad Helal Uddin said small traders are struggling to pay shop rent and employees' salaries.
The government cooperation is needed to compensate for this huge loss, he added.
Small traders will not get any benefit from next fiscal year budget, he said adding that, small businesspeople will also not get funds declared in the stimulus packages by the Prime Minister as banks do not give loan to small businesses.
Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) special fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said it is not the time to give incentives in the name of loans.
This is because, small entrepreneurs do not have the money to pay the loan installments, he said adding that the government should give necessary allocations to resume activities in this sector.
Dr Nadia Binte Amin of the Women Entrepreneurs’ Network for Development Association (WEND) said the SME sector contributes 25 percent of the country's GDP.
The majority of SMEs are women entrepreneurs, she said, adding that if women entrepreneurs survive, the country's economy will be prosperous.
She urged the government to stand by the women entrepreneurs in overcoming this crisis and take necessary steps in this proposed budget.