The 2018-19 budget presented by finance minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith is nothing above lacklustre. He has has announced yet another deficit budget, as every year. There is one sensation in this budget though, and that is lowering corporate taxes to appease private bank owners.
On the other hand, this budget hardly offers any incentive to the entrepreneurs. Neither are there any indications of increasing employment opportunities. And the tax increases will put more pressure on the middle classes than the wealthy. The finance minister’s strong statements in seminars and meetings about mismanagement in the banking sector and the share market, found no reflection in his budget speech. He simply said, there was some mismanagement in certain banks, this was been remedied by timely measures. And yet during the term of this government, the banking sector has been best with scams and scandal.
The size of the 2018-19 budget has been fixed at Tk 4,64,573 crore budget, but with a Tk 1,21,242 crore deficit. On the other hand, revenue has been estimated at Tk 3,43,331 crore. There can be no downsizing the Tk 2,52,668 crore allocated for the non-development budget. But if the revenue target is not achieved, then the development budget of Tk 1,79,669 crore will have to be downsized.
The finance minister admitted that it was difficult to implement the budget. He expressed anger at the bureaucrats for the failure to implement projects in due time. However, his speech offered no guidelines to budget implementation. That was disappointing.
This budget was, in general, perceived to be an election budget, aimed at appeasing the public. But it will not be acceptable if the budget is just a piece of paper to provide benefits and appease party people.
The Centre for Police Dialogue (CPD) has expressed apprehensions about the budget, concerning revenue collection, implementation of the Annual Development Programme (ADP), and increasing investments in proportion to the GDP. However, the positive aspects of the budget, we feel, are increasing surcharges on wealth, policy assistance for expansion of local industries, facilities for disabled-friendly hospitals, and removing VAT on bread, biscuits and shoes for the poor.
On the other hand, it is a matter of concern that only 2.15 per of the GDP has been allocated for the education sector, and only 0.7 per cent for the health sector. Around 4 to 5 per cent of the GDP should be spent on health and education. The social safety nets should be expanded too.
The finance minister had very consciously addressed regional discriminations in the previous budgets, but not this time. He has left many things, including the much-talked-about bank commission, to the next government. The budget implementation will depend much on how the plans and policies of the future government are consistent with the present government.
The chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), at a post-budget press conference, said there would be no tax on online shopping, that it has been a printing mistake. His statement was rather disappointing in the sense that the concerned persons would be so careless about such an important issue as the budget.
Reactions to the budget have been pouring in from various quarters. There will be discussions inside and outside the parliament. We hope the finance minister takes all of this into cognizance and finalises the budget accordingly, so that the greater good and interests of the people are upheld.
We thank the finance minister for presenting the budget for around ten consecutive years.