*Country to overcome present economic crisis shortly riding on remittance, he hopes
*Govt also concerned about inflation, he admits
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Friday said the government will be able to attain all the targets made in the national budget for the next fiscal year like previous years, noting that the budget has been formulated considering the interests of all sections of people.
He made the remarks while addressing a post-budget press conference at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital.
The finance minister refuted the allegation that the budget has been dictated by International Monetary Fund (IMF). “I can clearly state that the budget hasn’t been prepared following the IMF prescription. We accept only those suggestions we feel necessary for us and we have no objection to it,” he said.
“We consider the local context in budget formulation. IMF not only lends us money but also helps us carry out financial reforms. There’re also many things to learn from IMF,” he added.
Mustafa Kamal’s comments came a day after he placed a hefty Tk 7.61 trillion expansionary budget in Parliament at a tough time riding on a sizeable growth in tax revenues overburdening the inflation-hit people with more taxes.
Prior to the budget announcement, eminent economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya termed the budget an ‘orphan’, saying IMF has been its ‘foster father’.
The finance minister told the press conference that there is a hue and cry about the IMF loan but the amount is equal to the foreign remittance Bangladesh receives in 1.5 months.
He expressed the hope that the country will be able to overcome the present economic crisis shortly where foreign remittance will play a big role as it always does during any crisis.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Abdur Rouf Talukder said Bangladesh has maintained a healthy current account balance but the problem lies with the financial account, balance of which has been negative now.
The issue might be fixed in the next few months, he expected.
When his attention was drawn to criticism for making Tk 2,000 tax mandatory for the TIN holders, the finance minister said there are a lot of middle-income people in the country who do not pay tax. “Had they given tax, tax burden on other people would have eased,” he said.
National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Rahmatul Muneem said people who need TIN do not belong to the low-income group and they must be proud of being able to pay Tk 2,000 tax per year for the wellbeing of the country.
The finance minister reiterated his claim that the budget has targeted the low-income people and will protect the poor as social safety net is being expanded.
About the mounting inflation, he said the government is also concerned about the high inflation. “We’re also concerned about inflation. The entire world is now under the grip of inflation. We can’t stop giving food to people and they can’t be left starving,” he noted.
“We’re advancing in a flexible way. We’re trying to control the factors that cause inflation. We’re giving tax benefits in necessary areas,” Mustafa Kamal added.
He also claimed that the inflation rate was 12 percent when the incumbent government came to power, which later came down to 6 percent in the following 10 years.
Addressing the press conference, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said despite the hike in commodity prices, Bangladesh is still better than many other countries. “If you look at the world, you can understand what our condition is. It’s true that the poor people are suffering. But we’ve given pulses and sugar to them at a low price. Even, we sold onion to them,” he said.
He said the problem is that Bangladesh imports most of the food items. He also admitted that there might have been existence of middlemen in commodity price manipulation.
Agriculture Minister Dr M Abdur Razzaque, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Planning Minister MA Mannan, LGRD Minister Md Tazul Islam, Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, Prime Minister's Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman, State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam, Cabinet Secretary Mahbub Hossain, Finance Division Senior Secretary Fatima Yasmin, Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Sharifa Khan and Planning Division Secretary Satyajit Karmakar were present at the press conference.