Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will hold a meeting with secretaries of all ministries on Wednesday to ensure education, health and economic recovery from Covid-19 pandemic fallout.
She is attending the meeting of secretaries after four years considering the importance of resuming classes and examination activities by reopening educational institutes, which have been closed for nearly a year and a half, ensuring adequate vaccines as well as restoring damaged trade and commerce.
The last secretary meeting was held on 2 July 2017 in the presence of the head of the government. The meetings were held at different times later, but the prime minister was not present.
Wednesday's meeting will also focus on plans on food security, agricultural development and the country's transition from the status of least developed to developing, according to the presentation papers prepared for the secretaries of different ministries.
It will also discuss building greater capacity to implement development projects, increasing the use of information technology in government services, and industrial development plans.
Officials at the education ministry said a plan to start classes at universities, colleges and schools in phases from September would be presented at the meeting. The plan proposes one class a day initially.
The prime minister will be informed about the plan to hold the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and its equivalent examinations for 2021 in November and the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and its equivalent examinations in December. And if the situation is favourable, this year's Junior School Certificate (JSC), Primary School Certificate (PSC) and their equivalent examinations will be held.
The ministry plans to take higher education exams online and technical education exams physically.
Besides, the education ministry will present to the prime minister a plan to take the SSC, HSC and equivalent examinations of 2022 on a short syllabus.
Officials at the health ministry said a plan to vaccinate an average of 1 crore people every month and its implementation would be presented to the prime minister.
The Health Services Division will also update the PM on the promise of 21.04 crore doses of vaccine from six companies and the receipt of 3.10 crore doses till 13 August. Another 50 lakh doses will be available from Chinese Sinopharm this month.
The division has formulated future plans for the development of the health sector, which will be presented at the meeting. It said a high-level technical committee and an advisory committee have been formed to set up a vaccine plant in Gopalganj for vaccine production through Essential Drugs Company Limited, the lone state-owned medicine manufacturer.
At present, there are 31,687 nurses against 32,705 doctors in the country – that is, a doctor-nurse ratio of 1: 0.97. The division has a plan to increase it to 1: 3.
To strengthen the healthcare system at the district level, the Health Services Division will present a plan to take up projects for construction of multipurpose buildings and modernisation of medical waste management.
The meeting will also discuss the implementation of incentive packages announced by the government for economic recovery from the Covid shocks as well as strategies for tackling the challenge of transition from a least developed country to a developing one.
The importance of increasing foreign investment in Bangladesh, ensuring GSP Plus benefits in the European Union, and continuing the TRIPS benefits of the pharmaceutical industry will be discussed.
In addition, the industries ministry will place a proposal for a fresh stimulus fund to be distributed by the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) and the SME Foundation for the recovery of small enterprises and creating new entrepreneurs.
The ministry will also propose the formation of a "one-stop service authority" and a central coordination body to ensure sustainable industrialisation through the implementation of the industrial policy.
The prime minister is expected to give instructions on food production and price situation at the meeting, said officials at the food ministry, adding that despite record production, the price of rice has gone up abnormally, which is hampering the food security of general people during the pandemic.
According to the food ministry, for the first time in the history of the country, even in the pandemic, food production exceeded the quota of 4 crore tonnes and increased it to 4.11 crore tonnes in the last financial year. Of this, 3.98 crore tonnes of rice and 0.13 crore tonnes of wheat were produced.
In fiscal 2019-20, the country produced 3.99 crore tonnes of food grains including rice and wheat. In one year, food production increased by 11.67 lakh tonnes or about 3%.
Against the target of 3.98 crore tonnes for the year, the food production was 12.94 lakh tonnes, which is 3.25% higher than the target.
Despite record production, food prices have soared in the last two years, according to a report prepared for the meeting.
According to the report, prices of coarse rice have risen by 20-53%, medium quality rice by 37.50%-61.76% and fine rice by 13.33%-39.13% in the last two years.
As per the report, coarse rice was sold at Tk30-40 per kg in August 2019. The price of the same rice stood at Tk46-48 in August this year. The price of coarse rice has gone up by Tk16 per kg.
The price of medium rice, which was sold at Tk34-40 per kg in August 2019, has gone up to Tk55. That means the price of medium rice has increased by Tk 15-21 per kg.
The price of fine rice, which is selling for Tk64-68 per kg, was Tk46-60 two years ago. The price of good quality rice has gone up by Tk18 per kg.