The finance minister's proposal to whiten black money in a number of sectors including cash, investment in industry, capital market, flats, bank deposits was widely criticised inside and outside the parliament. They said it would encourage corruption and corrupt people. The taxpayers who have submitted their income statements accurately, have to pay 25 to 30 per cent tax. Those who have been evading taxes without proper statement, they can whiten black money with a 10 per cent fine. It is unethical as well as an injustice to honest taxpayers.

The finance minister has imposed a 25 per cent fine for whitening black money in the face of criticism from various quarters. Many countries in the world have the opportunity to whiten black money. However, in that case one has to pay a much higher fine than the regular tax. Earlier, the finance minister had said that as long as there is black money, there will be an opportunity to whiten it.

His statement has been criticised. Is it the responsibility of the government to whiten the black money, or to stop generation and laundering of black money? The weakness of our financial management is obvious. If it cannot be overcome, amassing black money will continue.

The finance minister has made exemptions on a few more issues. Among which is the withdrawal of additional tax imposed on mobile financial service providers (MFS). Apart from this, it has been proposed to pay by cheque those who have a monthly salary of up to Tk 20,000. At first it was proposed for up to Tk 15,000. Cheque transactions were proposed if more than Tk 50,000 worth of raw materials were purchased for any industry. The transaction amount limit has been raised to Tk 500,000. We believe these decisions are positive.

Whether the promise made by the finance minister during his tenure to build a strong Bangladesh with a focus on life and livelihood will be fulfilled depends on the goodwill and ability to implement it. No matter how people-friendly the budget is, there is no benefit if it cannot be implemented. This time the health sector was at the centre of the budget discussion. Opposition parties and many members of the ruling party were also critical of the sector. As always, the health minister has denied all the allegations and tried unsuccessfully to cover up the mistakes.

In order to ensure at least minimum benefit for the people from the development plans mentioned in the budget, all the concerned ministries and departments have to be accountable for its implementation. How the government tackles this challenge remains to be seen.

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