Speakers at a virtual discussion on Saturday demanded a special incentive package from the government to overcome the current crisis in the tourism sector in of Cox’s Bazar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For effective implementation of this incentive package announced by the government, banks must increase their cooperative role so that small local entrepreneurs can take advantage of this package, they said.
Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and local business organisations of Cox’s Bazar district, especially the Cox’s Bazar Hotel Owners' Association, District Restaurant Owners’ Association, Dry Fish Producers’ Association, Salt Farmers, Small and Medium Entrepreneur’s Foundation and other business organisations took part in the virtual discussion.
President of Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce Md Abu Murshed Chowdhury discussed the details of the incentive package of the government.
Based on the discussion, participants made seven specific demands for implementing the government’s package and overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, including announcing a special incentive package for the tourism sector in Cox’s Bazar to overcome the corona crisis, local banks in the district should have a “help desk” so they can get all the necessary information on the government’s incentive package, and to protect the salt farmers, a “salt development board” should be formed in the district.
The demand also includes that the lockdown should be lifted and an official announcement should be made so that everyone can start their economic activities and businesses especially opening hotel restaurant, airline (Dhaka-Cox's bazar flight) etc in compliance with the government’s health rules and government should explore international market to strengthen shrimp export, so that shrimp hatcheries will run sustainably.
In his address, local MP of Kutubdia-Moheskhali constituency Ashekullah Rafiq said that the Prime Minister has taken all the initiatives to promote tourism in Cox’s Bazar, but the COVID-19 crisis has created a stalemate.
Here, effective implementation of the incentive package announced by the government is needed and if the banks ensure their cooperation, then the tourism sector of Cox’s Bazar, local entrepreneurs will all benefit and will overcome the crisis, he said.
Senior Secretary of Local Government Ministry Helal Uddin said that Cox’s Bazar has a tourism-based economy and all economic activities are involved with it. These economics are closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, so we can resume all business activities following health hygiene rules. We can talk to everyone about it, he added.
Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain said about three lakh people, who are involved in the tourism sector, are now unemployed at the moment.
"We're thinking about their livelihood, we can talk to the banks so that they can collaborate with small entrepreneurs and they can start a business. We can work together with the Chamber of Commerce," he added.
Executive Director of COAST Trust Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said many small entrepreneurs are involved with NGOs and they are getting financial assistance from Tk 30,000 to Tk 20 lakh.
NGOs could work well with small entrepreneurs if support is ensured by banks. The local administration should also have cooperation toward the NGOs, he added.
President of District Restaurant Owners Association Noymul Hoque Chowdhury said the due to corona crisis hotel and restaurant workers become unemployed and living with hardship. They need special support package including relief and bank support following the Eid-ul-Azha.
President of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce Mahabub Alam said small and medium entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the economy and the driving force behind employment. The government must take care that this sector is not harmed in any way, the banks must extend a helping hand in implementing the incentives, and then the government’s objective will be successful, he said.
Among others, chairman of Hotel Ocean Paradise MN Karim, director of Simon Beach Resort Mohammad Sabed Ur Rahman, Member Secretary of Shrimp Fry Hatchery Owners Association Nazibul Islam, President of Salt Mills Owners Association Shamsul Alam Azad, Kazi Morshed Ahmed Babu on behalf of Dairy farmers, Abid Ahsan Sagar on behalf of Dry Fish Producers, Ishtiaq Ahmed Joy on behalf of Crab Traders and M Rezaul Karim on behalf of Tourism also took part in the virtual discussion.