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Pabon in Bangladesh is demanding for social support for all

Young entrepreneurs have been hit hard by the Covid crisis in Bangladesh. Many had to close their businesses because of the lockdown, but government support is difficult to obtain. Young entrepreneur Pabon Sarkar talks about his struggle to save his business.

Pabon (25) is a graduate and runs his own small business producing organic fertilizer for local fertilizer dealers. The Covid crisis was a major blow to his company.

“When the lockdown started, I couldn’t sell fertilizer and I had to stay home for almost six months. My family depends on the income from my business. I went through a difficult time, financially and mentally.”

Pabon was forced to store his supplies for months. After the restrictions eased, he managed to sell his products, but at a much lower price than usual.

The Covid crisis affects young entrepreneurs….

Pabon is not alone in grappling with the significant challenges caused by the pandemic. Many young entrepreneurs start their business with money they have saved themselves or with family support. Any loss therefore has a major impact on their family life as well as their business. Most companies had to close their doors temporarily due to the restrictions. Many entrepreneurs were forced to change their business operations, continue at a loss, or borrow money from family members just to keep their business afloat.

… and government support is hard to get

The government of Bangladesh has introduced a stimulus package, in the form of a favorable loan, to offset the losses of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. But not everyone succeeds in accessing this. Pabon’s application was rejected by several banks because there was uncertainty about the ownership papers of the land that his family has owned for generations.

“There is clearly inequality in the granting of state aid,” says Pabon. “For example, in my area this loan is only granted to agriculture-related matters. What if someone has a different kind of business and suffers massive losses?”


Pabon will not let it pass

Pabon is calling for fair access to support packages for all entrepreneurs. He says: “To combat this inequality, access to financial support must be flexible for start-ups and young entrepreneurs. Otherwise, entrepreneurs will be forced to take out high-interest loans to save their business. There should be a support package specially designed for all young entrepreneurs, not just agricultural entrepreneurs.”

Lobbying the government takes time, but Pabon refuses to give up. He is a member of his local youth group, which is part of Oxfam’s Empower Youth for Work project. Through Oxfam, the young people receive a lot of information about opportunities for receiving loans. While this is useful, Pabon adds that “it would be great if Oxfam could influence the government and make the loan application system easy for young entrepreneurs.”

In the meantime, Pabon continues to work hard to keep his head above water and support his family. “I may not be entitled to the special support package, but I have taken out a general loan with high interest. I will continue to run my business and do my best to make it flourish.”


Oxfam report on the global social protection gap

It isn’t only young entrepreneurs who are struggling to receive state aid to cope with the impact of the Covid crisis. A new Oxfam report, Shelter from the Storm, reveals that more than a third of the world’s population has so far received no financial support from their government to cope with the economic consequences of the pandemic, and highlights the global need for universal social protection. Worldwide, half a billion people now have too little work or none at all. Read more about the report here.