Speakers in a virtual discussion on Sunday said that the upcoming budget should be aimed at protecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, especially the poor, affected by the COVID-19 crisis in the impoverished and corruption-ridden country.
In meeting the unprecedented challenges, they suggested, a comprehensive three-year plan should be made attaching top priority to health, food security and employment generation.
The advice came in a pre-budget parley arranged by the Centre for Governance Studies, five days before the announcement of the new national budget in parliament on June 11.
Planning minister MA Mannan, former minister and BNP standing committee member Abdul Moyeen Khan, former president of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Mir Nasir Hossain, former Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury took part in the discussion.
Also those else who joined the discussions included entrepreneur Selima Ahmed MP, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies senior research fellow Nazneen Ahmed, former National Board of Revenue chairman Muhammad Abdul Majid and banker Mamun Rashid.
Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, a professor of development studies at Dhaka University set the tone of the discussion by presenting the keynote paper.
Among other things, he suggested cutting unnecessary costs like subsidy to the rental power plants, bringing the 2.5 lakh foreigners under the tax net, settlement of the tax-related pending cases and deferment of Bangladesh’s debt obligations as a least developed country.
Commenting on the key note, Nazneen Ahmed added that cash incentives for the RMG sector should be diverted to other priority sectors while the money supply should be increased in a subtle way.
Opposing the idea of printing money to increase its supply, banker Mamun Rashid said that the ministry of finance should be given more scope to utilise its online platform to bring about more transparency in budget and debt management.
He demanded establishment of health administration to improve the health sector that according to him fell exposed to vulnerability due to the COVID-19 onslaught after decades-long negligence of and corruption in the sector.
Muhammad Abdul Majid said that there was no way for the government to check tax evasion indulged by affluent in the coming fiscal year to close the gap between the projection and the collection.
Selima Ahmed MP said that the allocation for women entrepreneurs became a joke since the fund remained unused.
Mir Nasir Hossain said that adjustment of fuel oil prices was an imperative besides reducing corruption in the heath sector and demanded higher allocation for the industry and agricultural sectors to generate employment.
Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury sought a speedy implementation of the stimulus packages worth over Tk 1 lakh crore announced by the government to face the COVID-19 consequences.
Abdul Moyeen Khan said that the government should divert funds from the annual development programme to ensure money for implementing the stimulus measures.
He commented that even a half of the projected Tk 2-lakh crore ADP with quality expenditure would give the much-needed impetus to the economy without implementing the projects infested with over-priced goods, including pillows’ seen in the Roopur Nuclear Power Plant project.
He also noted that the economy would continue to suffer unless the government stopped insider lending and rescheduling of defaulted loan in the banking sector.
MA Mannan said that agriculture and industry should get priority in the new budget.
He noted that the risk of capital flight with agriculture was nil compared to industry.
Acknowledging that the number of new poor was increasing, he said that their number would quickly drop in the post COVID-19 period.
He also said that higher fund allocations would not bring any benefit if misuses, lack of skills, and corruption were not addressed.
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