The World Bank has predicted sunny days for Bangladesh. According to the bank, Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will increase by 3.6% in 2020-2021 fiscal year due to better than expected remittance inflows.
It its twice-a-year-regional update released on Wednesday, the bank also forecast that the country’s GDP growth will be at 5.1% and 6.2% in 2021-22 and 2022-23 FYs respectively.
In January, 2021, the WB projected that the GDP in 2020-21 and 2021-22 FYs will be 2%, and 1.7% respectively.
According to the bank, prospects of an economic rebound in South Asia are firming up as growth is set to increase by 7.2% in 2021 and 4.4% in 2022, climbing from historic lows in 2020 and putting the region on a path to recovery.
But growth is uneven and economic activity well below pre-Covid-19 estimates, as many businesses need to make up for lost revenue and millions of workers, most of them in the informal sector, still reel from job losses, falling incomes, worsening inequalities, and human capital deficits, says the World Bank in its twice-a-year-regional update, it added.
The latest South Asia Economic Focus South Asia Vaccinates shows that the region is set to regain its historical growth rate by 2022.
Electricity consumption and mobility data is a clear indication of recovering economic activity.
The outlook for Nepal and Pakistan has also been revised upward, supported by better than expected remittance inflows: Nepal’s GDP is projected to grow by 2.7% in the fiscal year 2021-22 and recover to 5.1% by 2023; Pakistan’s growth is expected to reach 1.3% in 2021, slightly above previous projections.
The improved economic outlook reflects South Asian countries’ efforts to keep their Covid-19 caseload under control and swiftly roll out vaccine campaigns.
Governments’ decisions to transition from widespread lockdowns to more targeted interventions, accommodating monetary policies and fiscal stimuli—through targeted cash transfers and employment compensation programs—have also propped up recovery, the report notes.
“There are clear signs of an economic rebound in South Asia, but the pandemic is not yet under control and the recovery remains fragile, calling for vigilance,” said World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer.
He further added, “Going forward, South Asian countries need to ramp up their vaccination programs and invest their scarce resources wisely to set a foundation for a more inclusive and resilient future.”
While laying bare South Asia’s deep-seated inequalities and vulnerabilities, the pandemic provides an opportunity to chart a path toward a more equitable and robust recovery.
To that end, the report recommends that governments develop universal social insurance to protect informal workers, increase regional cooperation, and lift customs restrictions on key staples to prevent sudden spikes in food prices.
South Asia, which grapples with high stunting rates among children and accounts for more than half of the world’s student dropouts due to Covid-19, needs to ramp up investments in human capital to help new generations grow up healthy and become productive workers.
Noting that South Asia’s public spending on healthcare is the lowest in the world, the report also suggests that countries further invest in preventive care, finance health research, and scale up their health infrastructure, including for mass and quick production of vaccines.
“The health and economic benefits from vaccinations greatly exceed the costs involved in purchasing and distributing vaccines for all South Asian countries,” said Hans Timmer, World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia Region.