Finance minister recently announced the budget for the 2020-21 financial year. The recently proposed budged, according to many, lacked proper attention towards health care and education sector where these two sectors needed specific plan and allocation considering the COVID-19 situation, writes Tasbibul Gani Niloy
SINCE Tajuddin Ahmed announced the first budget of Bangladesh in 1972, national budget has always been a crisis for the people all over the country. Mostly all the budgets of our country are dependent on a huge amount of loan. Such a huge amount of loan hampers the productive outcome of the nation every year.
After 49 years of our independence, the economy of our country is still a vulnerable one and we as a whole population is thriving to increase the quality of living as a substantial portion of the population are deprived of many basic human rights. Our education, employment, health care and other sectors have not done much development since our country was born.
Previous government has tried in many ways to improve our situation but they couldn’t make it. One of the vital issues that is required to stabilise our economy is the budget and since 1972, it is rather a thorn for us. The total budget for year 2020-21 is approximately Tk 5 lakhs 68 thousand crore. Yet this budget has the record deficiency of Tk 1,90,000 crore. The finance ministry has estimated an earning of Tk 1,25,162 crore from VAT.
The current budget of the fiscal year 2020-21 hits the record for having the highest loan our country has ever dealt with, with the amount of Tk 1,90,000 crore. Among this huge amount of loan, bank loan is Tk 84,980 crore. In the past, the banks used to give microcredits to people all over the country to open their small business, farms, companies et cetera.
People developed their livelihood with that but now it’s rather rare. The banks now a days are incapable of such microcredits as they are facing huge lose every year. These are ruining the private job sectors of our country. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, jobs are decreasing day by day. Many people are losing their jobs and the unemployment crisis is worsening.
The purpose of the budget is to help the people of the country to be in a better economic condition but not to hamper their everyday life. Our budget has become an unavoidable crisis and it’s getting worse.
The recent allocation in the education sector in this budget was Tk 66,400 crore for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Tk 24,937 crore was allocated for the primary and mass education ministry, Tk 33,118 crore for secondary and higher education division and Tk 8,345 crore were allocated for the technical and madrasa education division. The allocation for the education sector in the budget remains almost unchanged in terms of size and percentage of GDP compared to the previous budget.
In the fiscal year 2019-20 the allocation in the education sector was 17 percent with an estimation of Tk 61,118 crore. The current allocation is only 11 per cent of the total budget and its share in GDP is only 2.8 per cent this year and the improvement isn’t much compared to the previous year. The numbers tell a lot of things. The amount increased this year but the percentage has decreased compared to the budget allocated in the education sector the previous year. The amount is not enough for our education sector.
One of the major sectors of our country that always faces inadequate allotment in every budget is our health sector. Healthcare is one of the basic rights of every citizen and it has become an alarming issue during the pandemic. Tk 10,000 crore was allocated for handling the COVID-19 crisis. Tk 33,100 crore has been allocated to the health sector in the 2020-21 budget. An additional Tk 7.5 billion has been proposed in the budget as financial compensation for doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are risking their lives and working during the pandemic. But is that enough?
The epidemic has pointed out the naked truth about the ability of Bangladesh’s health sector. We had lack of medical technologies required to face this pandemic and this lacking has led towards disruptions in collecting patient samples. The number of people who are being tested every day is very low whereas the population of our country is huge. The shortage of designated doctors and nurses have forced the government to consider new appointments and positions in the sector. Both government and private hospitals run short of intensive care beds, oxygen facilities and proper treatment since the start of the epidemic.
The deficiencies of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) is facing bolt from the blues because the health sector was always as miserable as that and every year the budget is increasing in military sectors and other sectors but health and education is being denied of proper allocation every fiscal year.
The year 2020 has been hazardous as the whole world has to face numerous consequences because of the pandemic. The pandemic has played a vital role in collapsing the economies of the countries around the world. Bangladesh has faced severe damage because of the pandemic. People are becoming jobless, the government can’t provide enough food to us during the pandemic and it’s really alarming. We may be able to fight back and get rid of this pandemic but what about the damage it has done?
Nothing will be the same as it was before. Private job sectors are already ruined. Government jobs will become harder to get. Most importantly the pandemic pointed out the fragile situation of our health sector. We are not capable enough to face the future we’re heading towards.
What we need is economic stability which is a rare sight for our country. There are many private organisations in our country. A lot of them have become a mega industry over the years, supporting a lot of families with jobs and financial security. These industries and organisations have a huge impact over our economy.
A lot of these companies are not paying the proper amount of taxes to the government. A lot of them are laundering a huge amount of money every year, making our economy vulnerable and devastating the people with little income.
For example, the government has sent a notice claiming Tk 12579.95 crore dues from Grameenphone this year. Of the total amount, the leading mobile phone operator owes Tk 8494.01 crore to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and Tk 4085.94 crore to National Board of Revenue (NBR).
This amount is a huge one and it’s surprising how the authorities of Grameenphone were able to escape huge amounts of tax every year.
The banks are running out of money. The rich are getting richer and the poor are becoming poorer. The government never ever tried hard, willingly or rather unwillingly to collect the money they owe, rather we owe, from these whatever organisations or industries or corporations that are sucking the blood out of our economy since the birth of this country. This should come to an end. There are laws against such money laundering but who even cares. Criminals are getting away with their crimes and it’s us, the people who are suffering for their sins.
No matter how better a budget is proposed, no matter how much allocation is provided into all the sectors as they require, the budget will always be a crisis if the proper steps aren’t taken to stabilise our economy and we can’t figure out how we even provide to all those money launders out there, ruining our economy and finally our country.
Our country celebrates as it has become a developing country and out there the numbers of slums are increasing, people are dying of hunger and diseases, children have to forcefully leave their education and work in factories, women are getting sexually harassed while the rapists are roaming freely and among all these another budget has descended over the people to give us the realisation that, no matter how hard they try, our budget is a crisis.
Tasbibul Gani Niloy is a student of Jahangirnagar University
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