Three major challenges for the economy

  • Demand for prioritising on employment, education and social safety net

  • More than 10 per cent growth is needed to meet target

  • Inflation to rise if the syndicates not abolished

The economy of the country faces three major challenges now - uncontrolled inflation, risky growing debts and slow pace of economy.

Citizens Platform has identified these three problems in implementing the SDG (sustainable development goals) and made several recommendations to cope with these challenges.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Citizens Platform jointly organised a discussion at a hotel in the capital on Sunday on the topic – ‘The new government, national budget and people’s expectations’.

CPD’s distinguished fellow and convener of Citizens Platform Debapriya Bhattacharya presented the keynote at the programme.

The outcome of a survey on people’s expectations on the national budget was also revealed in the programme. It shows that the people expect the government to prioritise three sectors of employment, education and social safety net and enhance the budget for these sectors. The other sectors that should be given priority include, social inclusion, skill development, price hike, agriculture, women empowerment, health, infrastructure, accommodation and rehabilitation and climate change.

The survey was conducted online and on social media on some 2,249 people.

The three challenges

It further shows the inflation rate has remained over 9 per cent over the last 13 months. The rate was 9.81 per cent in March. Therefore the actual earnings of the low-income and poor are on the fall. Their income probably has declined more than the official data.

Speaking regarding the debt of the government, “We should not cling onto only the foreign loans to realise the overall debt situation. The government loans from domestic sources almost double the foreign loans it took. We no longer can boast of saying that we never failed to repay loans. We couldn’t repay the nearly USD 5 billion debt of the energy sector. The devaluation of money is further increasing the burden of loans on the government.”

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The Citizens Platform is saying the growth rate of the gross domestic production (GDP) of the country is declining. The GDP has declined to 4.84 per cent in the first six months of the current fiscal. Various obstacles appeared in the way to regain the expected GDP growth rate after the covid pandemic.

The government has set a target of achieving 7 per cent GDP growth in the current fiscal. To meet the goal, the government will have to achieve a GDP growth of 10.1 per cent in the remaining six months of the current fiscal.

No expectation from national budget

The initiative of the CPD and Citizens Platform went on social media Facebook and more than 8,000 Facebook users responded. Of them, 64 per cent said they don’t have any expectation regarding the national budget and some 89 per cent of the respondents praised the initiative taken by the CPD.

Syndicates and inflation

Former minister and deputy leader of the opposition in the parliament Anisul Islam Mahmud also addressed the programme. He said, “Some five or six importers control the syndicates in the business sector. If we can’t break these syndicates, then we won’t be able to reduce inflation. These syndicates are too powerful.  Inflation is not the result of any deficit in the supply of products. Don’t you see enough products in the shops?"

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He further said, “Our reserve started to decline following the Covid pandemic. However, the income from national revenue or exports hasn’t declined that much. So, where did the foreign currency go? People say it has been laundered.”

Addressing the discussion, former planning minister and president of the incumbent parliamentary committee on the planning ministry, MA Mannan said the sectors for budget allocations should be rearranged.  He also advised to curb wastes.

MP and former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) AK Azad said, “The CPD and Citizens Platform are bringing up facts that I cannot talk about as a MP. Whenever I go to my area, around 200-250 people come to me. Some 40 per cent of them came to seek help for medical treatment.  They want my help to get treatment in Dhaka. However, there are two hospitals in Faridpur. Equipment worth Tk 350 million is lying unused there. I send those people to Dhaka for treatment. I also have hired two men at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital to help these patients. I have heard that there are no patients at the Chest Disease Hospital in Faridpur. The authorities hire people to pose as patients.”

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Former caretaker government advisor Rasheda K Chowdhury said that it takes a long time to get clearance from any government agency.  As a result the foreign funds of the non-government development agencies get withheld where it was supposed to be used for human development.  She also recommended introducing mid-day meals at schools.

CPD distinguished fellow Mostafizur Rahman recommended enhancing institutional competence.  “Taxpayers’ money should be utilised properly,” he said.

CPD executive director Fahmida Khatun presided over the programme addressed by people from different professions.