FY 2021-22 Budget Too Weighed Down to Save Lives & Livelihood -Ahmad Bhuiyan

Economy

The largest budget of Bangladesh yet has been announced. The 50th budget for fiscal year 2021-22 has been estimated as 6 lac 3 thousand 681 crore taka. Where this huge money come from? Those who evaded pay taxes, would they be the benefit? Apparently not. Mass people’s expenditure will increase, but they won’t get benefit that much. Looking at the amount of allocation and the status of its implementation, it’s clear that the budget edges business elites. Moreover, people have to bear the expenses of the state, but the whole money are deposited in the pockets of rich entities. This inequality has not yet redeemed in Bangladesh.

Then the question of difference between declaration and implementation comes. Budget announcements are always a political matter. After the announcement, its implementation is a prime duty. There has been a lot of talk, but there is no news on how it will be implemented, or whether the government has the enough capacity to implement. There are many problems in implementation, but it will be known before the next budget announcement. Looking at the budget review of the last 10 years, it is seen that the rate of budget implementation has gradually declined. In the 2015-16 financial year, 61% of the budget has been implemented, which has come down to 81% in the last financial year. Thus, the rate of implementation is gradually decreasing due to squander and massive corruption.

The revenue target in this year’s budget is 3 lac 69 thousand crore. In other words, the deficit amount is 2 lac 14 thousand 71 crore taka, which is half of the total budget! Doubts are there on how this huge gap will be filled.

Despite many preparations, the budget announced for the fiscal year 2021-22 is not the budget for the people. It goes without saying that the demands made on behalf of the people as a whole are not reflected here. So the frustration has increased amidst people. The budget has projected a growth rate of 7.2%, which is unrealistic.

This is the second budget of the covid-19 period. The Finance Minister’s speech mentioned that the number of victims is 6 lac 80 thousand and the number of deaths is more than 12 thousand. In addition, we needed more statistics on how many people have fallen into new poverty levels due to lockdowns and economic pressures. These figures have come up in various studies. According to the BBS report, 48 million people were newly unemployed during the Corona period. As a result, the total number of unemployed has crossed eight crore. On the other hand, according to the CDP, 42% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line.

Needless to say, the incentives and initiatives mentioned in the budget speech are far less than necessary. That is why we see that when the lockdown is announced, the question of lives and livelihood comes up again & again. It is not possible for a working man to sit at home; they say I will die of hunger just as I will die of corona. So they have to work. But when economic activity halts, jobs & works are unavailable even after leaving the house. As Poverty has increased; People’s income has decreased. These words did not find a place in the budget speech.

The health sector has been given top priority in the budget. Although this priority seems to have increased in terms of money, there are questions about how much it has increased in the workplace and how much it will benefit the people. This year’s allocation for health and family welfare is Tk. 32,631 crore. In other words, Tk. 3,046 crore has been allocated more than the previous financial year. Is it actually too much? The sector of which people have been thinking the most since the onset of corona infection, and have become involved, is the healthcare sector. On top of that, Health Ministry’s Corruption headlines in newspapers & magazine in Corona time has drawn widespread criticism.

Ten thousand crore taka have been set aside in the budget for the urgent need to prevent the Corona epidemic, which should be spent on vaccines and oxygen. In that case, even 10,000 crore is not enough to fight against the pandemic.
Only 5% of the total budget has been allocated to the social services sector. But today, in an epidemic situation that has been going on for more than a year and a half, humanity is in greater danger than ever before. In such a situation, the state is increasing the taxation on the one hand and allocating only 5% to the social services sector on the other hand. The dilemma here is will this 5% really be spent on social work?
The steps taken by the government in this case are not sufficient for the underprivileged & poor people. Most importantly, 11.4% state interest in 2021-22 fiscal year is being paid without any reason; The amount of interest is close to our education budget! In the context of the country, it is quite alarming.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has allocated a total of Tk. 61,951 crore for the education sector in the new financial year which is 11.91 percent of the total budget and 2.08 percent of GDP. In comparison, the allocation in the education sector has increased by Tk. 5,551 crore, but it has decreased in terms of GDP. The allocation that has been made for the coveted education sector is not enough to turn it into an epidemic which in no way can be justified in the existing situation.

The budget does not reflect the severe damage caused to the education sector by the Corona epidemic. With a large number of students being deprived of online education, inequalities like ‘digital devices’ are being created among students. Various studies have indicated that the dropout rate of students is increasing. The rate of child marriage is increasing. There is no specific plan in the education budget to address these issues.

Corporate tax rate rebates, local investment tax rebates, including a few rebates will benefit traders. However, there is not much in the budget for the affected people in Corona at this time. There are no significant exemptions from VAT and duties levied on the common man. Nothing has been said for the newly created 2.5 lac poor; there is nothing for the unemployed who have lost their jobs, no proposal for any major reforms in the health sector. As a result, it cannot be called a life and livelihood budget.

In terms of public health, another budget-centric tool is to reduce consumption by raising prices on harmful products. Highly taxed tobacco control is recognized internationally important step in protecting public health. However, the tax on cigarettes, bidis, jorda and gul has not increased much this time. This means that the government is indifferent to the health of the poor. Organizations involved in tobacco control have had several discussions with the National Board of Revenue over the past few months. But the demand to protect public health has not survived the pressure of the tobacco company, which is very disappointing. It is also a threat to the corona epidemic, as smokers are at increased risk of dying from corona.

In the proposed budget, 15 percent tax has been imposed on private universities. With the aim of increasing revenue, the imposition of tuition tax on students is a proof of recklessness. It is unfair to impose tax burden on students. Private universities are already in financial crisis due to covid shock. Many universities have been threatened with shutdown.

Most universities have to run education activities by waiving tuition fees on their students. In such a crisis, the imposition of taxes on private universities could lead to the closure of many private universities, including approved new ones. Therefore, in the interest of sustaining private universities, not taxes, rather various assistance including government incentives are needed.

The government wants to prepare a budget for lives and livelihood, but they are unable to give a minimum solution to save lives. Therefore, a large part of us are not referring to the proposed new budget as a ‘people’s budget’, some are referring to it as a conventional oral budget without a clear framework and plan for overcoming adversity.

Ahmad Bhuiyan is regularly contributing to national, international issues. He also contributes to various topics of economy.