‘Budget needed to unveil massive reform plan’

Akbar Ali Khan
Akbar Ali Khan File Photo
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The national budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 has been a routine one.

It has included a higher target and unnecessary big projects on foreign credit. Over the last one decade, the budget has been framed in this way.

But currently there is a question of survival in the competitive world.

Now it would not be possible to make rapid progress without reforms.

There is no consistency between income and expenditure in the proposed budget. The finance minister himself has said this year’s budget has been prepared for expenditure, and where the money will come from will be taken into consideration later.

I am afraid about what will ultimately happen in the proposed budget as it contains no reform measures. It would be difficult to rescue the economy if no large scale reforms are carried out. The investment in the public sector will be discouraged while the foreign investment will not come. Altogether we will reach stage where it will be difficult to recover growth.
Akbar Ali Khan
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According to the constitution of Bangladesh, there must be a consistency between income and expenditure in the budget. So the question is whether the proposed budget can be called a budget if it lacks that consistency.

It is true that there is no alternative to setting out the target that has been done in the proposed budget for FY 2020-21. It is the main responsibility of the government to protect lives of people.

Large scale reforms are necessary. Such reforms have not been carried out in Bangladesh for long. Reforms are needed in the revenue and banking sectors. Reforms are also needed in the management of government expenditure.

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I am afraid about what will ultimately happen in the proposed budget as it contains no reform measures. It would be difficult to rescue the economy if no large scale reforms are carried out. The investment in the public sector will be discouraged while the foreign investment will not come. Altogether we will reach stage where it will be difficult to recover growth.

Under such circumstances, the government has to do everything to protect the lives of the people. Simultaneously, reform measures have to be undertaken. Above all, good governance has to be established, otherwise people will not benefit.

We have ignored the health sector over the last one decade. The investment that has been made in the sector has not yielded results. A syndicate has controlled the health sector. The syndicate has been eager to make money rather than deliver health services. The administration in the health sector is very weak. I doubt whether anything can be done within a short time by increasing allocation for the sector. The government has to simultaneously increase investment and strengthen administration in the health sector.

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The measures taken in the social safety net programme are not adequate. In the most of the cases, the allowances are very low. And it has to be ensured that the genuine poor receive the allowances.

We heard about the formation of a bank commission, but there is nothing about this in the budget. The formation of the commission is not everything. The commission will not be able to do anything if Bangladesh Bank does not perform properly.

Akbar Ali Khan is former adviser to the caretaker government and cabinet secretary.

This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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