Can the budget please the people?


Abul Mal Abdul MuhithFinance minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith has increased the 2017-18 budget to a targeted Tk 4 lakh 266 crore taka, that is, about Tk 83 thousand crore more than the amended budget of the current fiscal. We have never even come anywhere near reaching the target set by the budget every year, indicating a glaring shortcoming in our economic management. However, the finance minister has given no guidelines on how to emerge from this situation.

As in the past eight budgets, this time too, the finance minister declared a huge deficit budget, yet with no indication of how this will be met. He says this budget will take us to the development highway, but has given no guidance on how to cross the obstacles on the way.

There are doubts as to whether the finance minister will get the conducive domestic and international environment he has had in the past to implement the budget. The recent natural disaster, along with the high prices of rice, will render the market even more unstable. It will be hard to contain inflation at 5.5 per cent. The economy may be in dire straits, with export growth dropping and a fall in remittances from abroad.

While the government speaks of reduced scope of employment, it is unfortunate that the budget has no guidelines as to ways to increase employment opportunities. Capital flight and weakness in the banking system are a big challenge to the economy, but the finance minister did not bother to touch upon this. If one does not admit a problem, how can it be resolved?

The finance minister has presented a budget reeking of self-complacence. With votes in mind, he has stayed VAT in certain sectors, but has retained the 15 per cent VAT on other products and services. The common people will bear the brunt. The hike in gas prices will also have a detrimental impact of public life.

Glaring weaknesses in the budget include failure to offer any effective measures to increase private investment, reduction of allocations in the sectors of health, education and human resources, with a propensity to increase expenditure in the non-productive sector.

One one hand there is a lack of investment-friendly environment, and on the other hand, excessive taxes are being imposed on bank deposits. This is suicidal. This gives rise to the question as to whether the finance minister wants to encourage money being siphoned off overseas.

The budget has just been placed in parliament. Before it is finally passed, we hope the members of parliament keep in mind the matter of people’s interests.

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