Speakers at a roundtable on ‘Budget to Fulfill Dreams: Outline of Expectations and Achievements’ organised by the Study Trust, gave a gloomy picture of budget implementation, the banking system, poverty alleviation, employment and so on. The words of finance minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith were particularly distressing. He said, the rate of budget implementation has decreased due to non-cooperation by the bureaucrats. Previously, 95 per cent of the budget would be implemented, that is now down to 80 per cent.
The finance minister presents a massive budget every year. But at the end of the financial year, it is seen that a large chunk of the budget remains unimplemented. In many cases the allocated funds have to be returned. Budget implementation is an integrated task. It cannot be implemented without the united efforts of all concerned. In order to galvanise implementation of the budget, the finance minister took a decision to form a pool of project directors, but that hasn’t come into effect over the past two years. The finance minister blames the bureaucrats for this.
There may be reasons behind this. The more delayed budget implemention can be, the more the concerned persons benefit. As the terms of the projects are stretched out, expenditure can be increased too. Expenditure for the local and foreign funded large projects is always increasing. Costs of the small projects increase too.
The finance minister’s statement has revealed the wide gap between the government’s plans and the implementation of these plans. It is up to the government to close this gap. But it does not seem that the government has taken any effective measures in this regard.
The finance minister’s position in the cabinet is after the prime minister. If he cannot get the bureaucrats to listen to an important matter like budget implementation, one can only guess the position of the other ministers. Prothom Alo and other media have written a lot on the slow and inefficient implementation of the budget. Had the policymakers taken heed, then perhaps the finance minister wouldn’t have had to lament in this manner.
In any country, there must be provision for reward and rebuke in running the administration. Qualified persons must be placed in appropriate positions. The finance minister should take punitive measures against the government officials responsible for the slow implementation of the budget. He must take up an active role in another matter as well.
He must ensure that as soon as the budget is declared, the allocations are immediately released to the respective ministries and departments. The ministries often complain that they are unable to start work as funds are not released. The finance minister has said there is no need for the ministry’s approval to work in the first nine months of the fiscal year. But if the funds are not released, how will the work be done? There are problems on both sides.
Again, the facts presented by the finance minister on poverty alleviation are also alarming. Towards the outset, the government had declared poverty alleviation as the number one priority. However, it seems like that attention here has lessened. This applies to employment, education, health services and infrastructural development as well.
In the last year of the government’s term, its failures are outweighing its successes. The budget has expanded six times in size over the past six years. This is a matter of hope. But if it is not implemented, then there is no point in having such a massive budget.