Plug loopholes to tackle illicit trade in Covid times, economists tell govt

Expressing concern over the rising illicit trade in Bangladesh in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic,economists have exhorted the government to take adequate steps to tackle the menace.


Global crime syndicates, according to the economists, are taking advantage of ineffective regulatory frameworks, supply shortages, changing consumer preferences and price gaps in certain sectors to expand their “illicit footprint”.


As the pandemic continues to wipe out jobs, illicit trade will continue to prosper. With less money to spend, more people will look for cheaper and illegal goods. So, better law enforcement is the need of the hour, the economists say.


According to them, governments and businesses across the globe would lose billions in revenue due to this increasing illicit trade, which will eventually put human lives in danger.


In fact, as per World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates, over US$2.2 trillion, or 3 percent of the global GDP (gross domestic product), will be lost to illicit trade in 2020.


Industries already impacted by this illegal trade globally include pharmaceuticals, tobacco, alcoholic drinks, PPE kits, sanitisers, luxury goods, and beauty and personal care products. Other flows of illicit trade have also been boosted, such as human trafficking and the illicit drugs trade.


Since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, sources say, sales of online counterfeit goods have jumped nearly 40 percent in comparison to 2019 in the US.


Talking to UNB, executive director of Policy Research Institute (PRI), Dr Ahsan H Mansur, said that unscrupulous people would always look for such a chance. “Illicit trade has gone up during the pandemic period. So, sources of corruption must be eliminated to stop illicit trade at all levels. Otherwise it will never stop”


The noted economist said many people have already amassed huge wealth, taking advantage of the situation. “Money laundering will further increase if the source of corruption is not eliminated,” he added.


Rising joblessness, Mansur said, could also give rise to human trafficking.


Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, the Research Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), echoed similar sentiments.


“We can’t say that illicit trade has spread across all sectors during the pandemic. So, the government, especially the commerce ministry and the central bank, should strictly increase its monitoring system,” he said.


“Unscrupulous people will try to make counterfeit products more to attract poor customers because the income of general people have reduced during the pandemic period. So customers will try to purchase products at a lower price overlooking quality,” the economist added.


When contacted, Sarwoer Alam, executive magistrate of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), told UNB, “We are continuing our drives against such unscrupulous elements. We seized a huge consignment of counterfeit cosmetics several days ago. Our detectives are very active.”


He also urged jobseekers to be “very careful” while dealing with people or agencies promising employment.


Source: United News of Bangladesh