THE ‘national budget’ for the 2019–2020 financial year, proposed on Thursday by the controversially ‘elected’ government of the Awami League, has been exposed to multidimensional criticism by the knowledgeable sections of people, particularly by economic experts while critics have reportedly been dubbed as ‘mentally sick’ by none but the chief executive of the state on Friday. This is, indeed, a time when anyone critiquing the extremely rigged elections is deliberately branded as ‘pro-Pakistani’, critiquing the incumbents’ political intolerance of opposing opinions is branded as ‘razakars’, critiquing enforced disappearances of political dissidents and extrajudicial killings of crime suspects by the law enforcement agencies as ‘non-patriotic’, critiquing the plundering of public wealth by a section of the rich politically aligned to the governing party as ‘rubbish’ and critiquing infrastructural development made at double and triple the genuine prices is branded as ‘ignorant’, so on and so forth. The latest in the series of such branding came in the face of criticism of the proposed budget — the critics are ‘mentally sick’. While the unjust branding of the political opponents and critics remains one of the major symptoms of fascism, thinking sections of the democratically oriented people are aware that the autocratic governments usually take refuge in such tactics only to hide their own misdeeds from the people at large.
However, we find the proposed ‘national budget’ for 2019–2020 not of any ‘national’ nature, in the first place, for the budget planners concerned have met almost all the demands that the rich sections of people had made to the government during the pre-budget parleys while ignoring the proper interest of the poor having hardly any genuine representatives invited to or present at such pre-budget talks. For example, the proposed budget puts forward no specific punitive measures against looters of the banks, bank loan defaulters or those responsible for huge capital flights while offering an increase in the surcharge-free limit of net assets of Tk 25 million by Tk 5 million, which would benefit the rich. On the other hand, the budget does not propose any increase in the tax-free income limit of Tk 250,000, ignoring the adverse impact of inflation on low-income group of individual taxpayers. Moreover, the government of the Awami League, which claims it to be the foremost pro-liberation force of the day, dismally ignores the peasantry by way of allocating 5.4 per cent of the budget this time while it was 5.7 per cent the previous year despite the fact that the peasantry provided the highest number of freedom fighters to liberate the country. There is hardly any effective measure proposed to remove pervasive socio-economic inequalities — a prime reason that the poorer classes of people fought the liberation war for. A budget that ignores the vital interest of the middle-income, low-income and poor sections of people and pampers a rich minority is not worth calling ‘national’. The government had better heed the genuine criticism of the proposed budget, instead of branding the critics ‘mentally sick’ and revise the politically sickening budget in line with the spirit of the country’s national liberation war — equality, human dignity and social justice.
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