Economists and politicians on Sunday said that the proposed budget for the financial year of 2019-20 was friendly to large-scale businesspeople not to business.
They made the comment at the CPD Budget Dialogue organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue at the Lakeshore Hotel in capital Dhaka.
They also raised questions about accuracy of the budget saying that a number of inconsistencies were found in the budget documents.
Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on June 13 placed the national budget for FY20 before parliament.
M Masum, a former professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, said the budget showed a clear picture of who would bear the cost of the budget and who would get advantage of it.
‘The proposed budget for the FY 2019-20 is friendly to large-scale businesspeople not to business and due to such economic policy the growth rate of ultra-rich people in Bangladesh is high,’ Masum said.
He said that a very few rich people would be benefited from the proposed budget while most of the poor people would bear the cost of the fiscal plan.
Citing a media report, former finance minister M Saiduzzaman said, ‘I agree with the report that said the budget was businesspeople friendly not business friendly.’
Planning minister MA Mannan said that there was no difference between a businesspeople-friendly budget and a business-friendly budget.
‘Businesspeople friendly means business friendly as business is run by businesspeople,’ he said.
The planning minister said that they were trying to strengthen the government statistics department so that no one could raise question about the government data.
Mannan said that the government was working to ensure transparency and it achieved remarkable progress in this regard in last one decade.
‘Poverty elimination is our main target and we are working to reach infrastructure, power, education and health care services to people’s doorstep,’ he said.
The planning minister said that the government had taken initiatives to reduce income disparity in the country but elimination of the problem would take time.
He also claimed that the number of ultra-poor in the country was highest 60 lakh.
‘In the free-market economy, the market holds supremacy and the mighty market decides the budget allocations,’ Mannan said.
Former commerce minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, also a BNP standing committee member, criticised Mannan for the statement.
‘Actually the persons who are controlling the market are in parliament and in the government and the persons decide the budget allocations,’ said Amir Khasru.
He said that there was doubt about the GDP growth figures showed by the government as the economic indicators related to GDP growth did not justify the figures.
‘The GDP figure has been politicised. How is it possible to achieve 7-8 per cent growth when the private sector investment has remained stagnant for last one decade, the capital market has been destroyed and the banking sector has been facing liquidity crisis due to non-performing loans?’
Amir Khasru termed the government’s mega projects as ‘mega white elephants’ sayings that people were paying for the mega projects and a quarter was plundering the money.
‘The government has no accountability as it is not elected by people,’ he alleged.
CPD executive director Fahmida Khatun presented the keynote paper at the dialogue.
In the paper, she said emerging challenges in the economic management had largely remained un addressed in the proposed budget.
Fahmida said that structural reform and governance hardly gained recognition in the budget.
‘We all recognised the high positive achievement of high growth and poverty reduction and whilst other factors contribute to these. The role of the government in various areas should certainly be appreciated,’ CPD chairman Rehman Sobhan said.
He raised question about the government initiative of reduction of income inequality and growing social disparity.
Rumeen Farhan, a Bangladesh Nationalist Party lawmaker, said economic disparity was increasing in the country but nothing about it was mentioned in the proposed budget.
She said Bangladesh ranked third in terms of growth in the number of rich people and ranked fifth in terms of the number of poor people in the country.
Rumeen said that the government’s plan to borrow Tk 47,000 crore from the banking sector would hinder private sector credit flow.
Barkat E Khuda, a former professor of economics at the University of Dhaka, said the budgetary allocation for education was much below the globally recommended level.
He said a vast number of people in the country had no employment, education and training and the allocations in the areas were not adequate.
‘One of the areas that should receive high priority is development of SMEs as it can create jobs for many as the public sector would be unable to create enough decent jobs,’ he said.
CPD distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman moderated the dialogue while Awami League lawmaker Kazi Nabil Ahmed and BNP executive committee member Tabith Awal spoke, among others, at the programme.
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