The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year has not addressed public health and environment issues appropriately as a very low amount of fund has been allocated for the sectors, said discussants at a webinar on Thursday.
They said that the proposed budget basically gave emphasise on transport and power sector developments, ignoring public health and environment issues when most of the countries in the world were paying more attentions to the issues for mitigating future challenges amid climate change and various natural disasters.
They also suggested that the government should change plans and policies, arguing that many of its development projects are appearing to be major threats to the environment and public health.
The Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan organised the webinar, attended by green activists and economists.
BAPA joint secretary Bidhan Chandra Pal presented a keynote paper, addressing flaws of the proposed budget.
Bidhan’s presentation showed that the allocation for the environment ministry decreased to Tk 221 crore in the proposed budget for the financial year 2021-22 from Tk 246 crore in the outgoing financial year 2020-21.
The allocation for the climate change mitigation project has been proposed at Tk 379 crore, which is Tk 40 crore less than the allocation for FY18.
The allocation for the transport sector has been proposed at 25.8 per cent of the budget and the power sector at 11.5 per cent whereas the health sector has got 6.6 per cent and the agriculture sector 5.6 per cent.
‘We do not see a specific reflection of public health and environment issues in the budget allocation and the finance minister’s budget speech,’ Bidhan said.
The Tk 6,03,681 crore budget should have plans for mitigating environmental loss, increasing research and capacity building of agricultural research institutes, developing agro-based supply chain system, ensuring profits of farmers, making poultry feed available in affordable prices, installing a proper waste management system and planning for development of agro-based small and medium enterprises in district towns, he said.
Considering the public health issue, he said, treatment for children aged below one year and people aged over 65 years must be free.
Economist Anu Muhammad said that the government took some wrong infrastructure and power plant projects to give benefits to some vested groups at the cost of the majority of the people and environment.
‘When countries like India, Japan and China are shutting down their coal-based power plants, the government is initiating such projects at the coastal belt in Bangladesh,’ Anu said.
‘The flawed development activity is increasing air pollution, which is causing various diseases, when coal-based power plants are appearing as a great concern for the Sunderbans,’ he added.
Former Bangladesh Bank governor Atiur Rahman said that the proposed budget should have included incentives for renewable energy use. ‘The government must increase capacity of bureaucrats for maximum and transparent use of the allocated budget,’ he said.
Shasthya Andolan joint convenor Farida Akhter criticised the budget for increasing tax on bidi, gul and low-cost cigarette. ‘There is no indication for the health of working class people in the budget,’ she said.
The webinar was presided over by former IEDCR director AM Zakir Hossain and anchored by BAPA general secretary Sharif Jamil.
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