Huge gap between expectations and reality

In the last fiscal year (2023-2024) of the current government, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has presented a budget of Tk 7.6 trillion (Tk 761,785 crore), the size of which is 7 per cent larger than that of the previous fiscal year.

The Annual Development Programme (ADP) has been approximated at Tk 2.63 trillion (263,000 crore). And the estimated revenue during the same period is Tk 5 trillion (500,000 crore).

That means the amount of deficit is Tk 2.6 trillion (261,785 crore). And the deficit in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 5.2 per cent.

The finance minister presented the budget at a moment when there is no good news anywhere in the economy. The import is threatened with high inflation on one hand and the dollar crisis on the other.

Yet there are no guidelines for dollar procurement or inflation reduction in the budget. Though there are plans of major expenditure in the budget, he couldn’t present a realistic plan on how to increase revenue either.

There are several positive steps in the proposed budget though; elevating personal tax ceiling, increasing allocation for social safety net programme and discouraging imports of certain luxury items.

Imposing supplementary duty heavily on imported goods, increasing fee of land-flat registration and imposing tax on purchase of second cars won’t harm low-income people.

But it needs to be considered how logical is the rule of every citizen paying Tk 2,000 minimum, to receive government service. Even a day labourer requires government services. Does he also have to pay Tk 2,000 in tax?  

The finance minister has talked about building a smart Bangladesh. But, there’s no reflection of that in the budget.

Earlier, former finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith had talked of building Digital Bangladesh. He had shown dreams of providing jobs in every house.

But the reality is that the country’s educated unemployment rate is on the rise. It doesn’t seem there’s any direction for creating employment in this year’s budget also.

And, economists believe the announcement finance minister has given of raising private investment to 27 per cent isn’t realistic either.

For creating human resources in any country, it’s essential to increase allocation in the education and health sectors. These two sectors have remained neglected this time as well.

On the other hand, where it was necessary to cut cost during this economic crisis period, government’s administrative cost has been increased 7 per cent.

The finance minister has talked of launching universal pension scheme in this budget. And, it’s a very good initiative.

But the comment he has made that there won’t be any space left to store money once this scheme has been activated, does indeed seem ridiculous.

He had also talked of bringing the siphoned off money back paying a fine of seven per cent in last year’s budget. Not even a single penny was brought back though.

The finance minister has claimed the proposed budget to be poor-friendly. But, increasing fuel oil price in the internal market despite the price moving downward in the international market isn’t synonymous to that announcement of his.

This would only put more pressure on low-income people. Nor it would be possible to tighten the grip over inflation. Let the common people not feel regret over the budget.