Debapriya Bhattacharya speaks at the CPD Budget Dialogue-2023

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) believes that the proposed national budget for the fiscal year 2023-24 has failed to address the ongoing macroeconomic challenges and crises, reports news agency UNB.

CPD executive director Fahmida Khatun said this while giving a keynote speech at the CPD Budget Dialogue-2023, an analysis of the proposed national budget, at a hotel in Gulshan, Dhaka on Sunday.

Planning minister MA Mannan was present at the event as the chief guest. Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, MP, chairman of parliamentary standing committee on expatriates’ welfare; Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, former commerce minister; and Kazi Nabil Ahmed, MP, member of the parliamentary standing committee on finance ministry, were present at the dialogue as special guests.

Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of PRI; Shamsul Huq Zahid, editor of The Financial Express; professor Shamsul Alam; Naser Ezaz Bijoy, president of Foreign Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI); Barrister Sameer Sattar, president of DCCI; and Taslima Akter Lima, president of Bangladesh Garments Sramik Sanghati, among others, spoke as panel discussants.

CPD’s distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya moderated the programme.

Fahmida Khatun said the proposed national budget seems far removed from the underlying macroeconomic reality. As a result, there is a significant gap from the budgeted targets.

“The proposed budget fails to address the most pressing challenges. The current reality is hyperinflation. There is no reflection in the budget system to deal with the ongoing crisis. The proposed budget has completely failed to address the ongoing macroeconomic challenges and crises,” she said.

Debapriya Bhattacharya said that considering the election year, the proposed budget seems unrealistic.

Energy advisor and energy expert of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), professor Shamsul Alam, said, “Although the government is happy with the big budget, we are apprehensive.”

The power and energy sectors are in a vulnerable position, he observed.

Barrister Sameer Sattar said the year of conservative investment is underway. At this time, it will create obstacles in meeting the demand of workers’ wages.

“I think if the tax-free limit is Tk 500,000, it will help the inflationary market a bit,” he said.

Rasheda K Chowdhury, advisor to a former caretaker government, said that educational institutions and NGOs have been included under the Companies Act.

“An educational institute in the city can pay taxes but how can a rural educational institute pay corporate tax?” she asked.

The former chairman of NBR, Mohammad Abdul Majeed, said that the income tax law is being passed before the budget is passed. It is not the right decision, he said.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman said children have been ignored in the proposed budget while they suffered education loss during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Labour leader Taslima Akhter said that inflation is currently “over 10 per cent” but there is no discussion on increasing wages in the national budget for labourers. For the sake of the workers, the allocation to the social security sector needs to be increased rather than reduced, she said.