THE implementation of the budget going wide off the mark in the outgoing financial year raises concern in that while the government aims at ambitious budgetary goals, it fails to make its mark in revenue growth and struggles to improve development expenditure and services delivery. The revenue growth in the 2019 financial year has been the slowest in recent years, overshadowing good export performances and the inflow of remittances. While development expenditure is reported to have slightly increased, it has not increased enough to leave a positive impact on the overall budget implementation. Other budgetary projections such as private-sector investment have not even been close to the targets. Independent think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue has projected the revenue shortfall in the 2019 financial year to reach Tk 850 billion amidst a 7.11 per cent revenue growth that the government could achieve in the first nine months of the financial year against the annual target of 36 per cent. The mobilisation of revenue could not go up to match the demand of an accelerating economic growth, which has undermined the momentum that was achieved in 2015–2017. All this, in turn, brings to the fore issues of inefficiency and lack of the capacity of government agencies and their officials that the government has failed to attend to.
The government has already cut the size of the annual development programme by Tk 80 billion to Tk 1,650 billion from Tk 1,730 billion and it is likely to cut the original national expenditure outlay of Tk 4645.73 billion by Tk 220.31 billion and set the revised budget at Tk 4425.42 billion for the 2019 financial year, which shows that the government has even failed to achieve the revised target by a wide margin. The original budget of Tk 3406.05 billion for the 2017 financial year was revised to Tk 3171.74 billion and the actual implementation, as made public a year later, shows that the total expenditure was Tk 2694.99 billion. Similarly, the actual expenditure was Tk 2384.33 billion in the 2016 financial year against the revised target of Tk 2645.65 billion while the original projection was Tk 2951 billion. The average discrepancy between the original budget and the actual expenditure in the 2009 financial year was, as a report that the Centre for Policy Dialogue released this April shows, 14.5 per cent which widened to 23.9 per cent in the 2018 financial year and the discrepancy is higher for development components compared with non-development components of the public expenditure. This clearly shows that the actual development has failed to commensurately make the mark as it is laid out in the budgetary projections.
The government may have been tempted to think that aiming for ambitious goals could help it to achieve at least a part of them. But it is time that the government realised that going wide off the mark in budget implementation, in terms of what has been planned and what has been achieved, that too for consecutive years, may not be a good target to aim at. It must find out where the problems such as inefficiency and the lack of political will are holding its agencies from effectively implementing the budget and then iron out issues for a better economic governance.
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