The world economy is recovering from the wound of the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to mass vaccination programmes and large stimulus packages.
Consumer spending is picking up as people feel safer to go out and enjoy shopping and vacations. The next challenge is to ensure smooth economic recovery.
Governments in many countries are implementing innovative policy tools to stimulate the economy further, for instance by introducing new public holidays to stimulate spending.
For example, the government of Thailand added four new public holidays to the calendar in 2020 to create longer weekends in order to boost the economy, particularly the tourism sector.
Three provinces in China have also opted for a 2.5 day weekend to stimulate spending. Similar steps were taken in New Zealand as well.
India is likely to implement a new labour policy early next year that will commence a four-day work week. However, the policy will mean a 12 hours long work day.
This type of 'short week' or 'long weekend' strategy, used by many countries, has allowed consumers to spend more in the domestic market given that international travel restrictions have not relaxed as much as the domestic ones during the pandemic.
As we know, the retail boom in Bangladesh occurs largely during two Eid vacations, Pujas and Pohela Boishaskh. The retailers and hoteliers wait for these festivals as the major bulk of their sales is made during these times.
On the other hand, the nature of celebrating these festivals has also changed over time. People both travel to their home of origin and tourist spots. The overcrowded tourist spots during these festivals, especially when these festivals are annexed with regular weekends have become routine headlines in the dailies.
Recently, we have seen how the tourists have thronged the beaches in Cox's Bazar and Kuakata in the recent long weekend of Victory day.
On these occasions, Bangladeshi consumers spend on products to buy gifts for their family members, relatives and friends. This indicates the changing consumption patterns of the burgeoning middle class with sizable disposable income.
The fact that the consumer class is growing with greater demand for leisure can be used to stimulate the regional as well as the national economy. The idea is that we have to make consumers spend their income in the 'local' economy.
Recent evidence on spending sprees on vacations suggests that people can spend more than they already spend, if their schedules allow.
That is, people may take more vacations and spend more if more holidays or long weekends are available. For example, there were 18 public holidays in the year 2021 of which seven coincided with regular weekly holidays.
These holidays could easily be shifted to Thursday or Sunday to make the weekly holidays longer. Moreover, some holidays which fall in the middle of the week can be observed on Sunday or Thursday, obviously excluding significant national days.
A small reshuffling of holidays can bring about a large impact on the economy without increasing the total number of holidays and losing working hours. And this is a low-cost strategy.
This can be experimented on as the economy is recovering from the pandemic.
Dr. Kazi Iqbal is a Senior Research Fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.