Experts on Sunday said that the allocation proposed for the youth in the national budget for the next fiscal year was not sufficient to overcome the Covid outbreak’s impacts on education, health and income of the young population in the country.
At a webinar on ‘National Budget 2021-22 from Youth Perspective’, they said that the policymakers have emphasised the growth of gross domestic product in the proposed budget but it would not possible to reach the target without addressing the problems of youth population.
They said that the government should increase allocations for education and health, and offer stimulus to the youth who have lost their incomes amid the pandemic.
Asian Network on Economic Modeling and ActionAid Bangladesh jointly organised the event.
‘Allocation for the youth in the proposed budget is not adequate,’ Asian Network on Economic Modeling executive director Selim Raihan said.
He said that it would not be possible to reach the growth target with the insufficient allocation for health, education and entrepreneurship in the proposed budget.
Although the pandemic has affected the young population badly, there are no significant changes in the budget allocation considering the situation, Selim, also a Dhaka University economics department professor, said.
‘The target will not be fulfilled without a visible departure in allocations,’ he added.
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said that the policymakers focused on achieving GDP growth in the proposed budget but it would not be possible to achieve the growth target without investing on the youth population.
Several survey reports said that the Covid outbreak made 2.5 million new poor in the country but the policymakers are unwilling to recognise the data, she said.
Farah said that a special allocation was required for education as most of the students remained out of the facility of online classes amid the pandemic but the proper initiative was not taken in this regard.
The allocation for the health sector should be increased and the quality expenditure should be ensured, she said.
The country’s pathway towards sustainable economic recovery and social cohesion is vulnerable due to the pandemic’s effect on the youth, said Eshrat Sharmin, senior research associate of SANEM.
‘If policies do not address the constraints of youth development, the demographic dividend cannot be realised. The budget for FY2021-22 should address the short to mid-term challenges the youth are facing,’ she said in her presentation.
Eshrat said that in the national level, only 22 per cent participated regularly in online classes.
She said that with 25 per cent income shock, additional 19 per cent of university students’ families would be new poor due to the pandemic.
Citing survey report conducted by SANEM, Eshrat said that 22.7 per cent of educational institutions regularly take online classes while 57.7 per cent has never availed any digital device for educational purposes.
She also showed that 79.7 per cent of the self-employed youths had reported a decline in profits and 57.4 per cent of wage earning youths had reported a decline in wages.
Eshrat recommended the unemployment benefit for youths involved in the informal sector, increasing allocation in health and education and easier access to stimulus packages for youths involved in the SME sector.
She also suggested the removal of tax on private educational institutions and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of stimulus packages.
Parliament member Nahim Razzaq said that it was a challenge for the government that the youths still remained out of Covid-19 vaccine programme.
‘The government has announced stimulus packages for the businesses to fight against the Covid fallout but we have failed to ensure the access of SMEs to the packages,’ he said.
Nahim said that 22 line ministries were working on youths and the government should focus on the implementation of the budget.
Farzeen Ferdous Alam, chairman of Oggro Ventures, said that the government announced stimulus for the young entrepreneurs but the SMEs had no scope for getting the fund due to many unrealistic conditions.
‘Despite repeated attempts, I have failed to get access to the stimulus package announced by the government amid the pandemic but I have secured foreign loan without any hassle in the period,’ he said.
Dhaka University economics department professor Sayema Haque Bidisha, education ministry additional secretary Md Hasanul Islam and social welfare ministry additional secretary Mohammad Ismail, among others, spoke at the programme.
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