Budget focuses less on new poor: Citizen’s Platform

Staff Correspondent

7 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Budget focuses less on new poor: Citizen’s Platform

The proposed budget focused less on disadvantaged people or new poor as it failed to consider second wave of the pandemic properly, Citizen’s Platform for SDGs has observed in its budget analysis.

 “Road has been wide by the recent projects of the government but disadvantaged people, who are supposed to board the vehicles plying on that road, have been left out in the budget,” commented Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the platform, at online media briefing on Sunday.

The budget has won some success in terms of inclusivity, but failed to ensure “fairness,” the noted economist repented, adding that the budget has been prepared on faulty assumption that Covid situation was better in FY21 compared to that in FY20.

Despite some private initiatives, the government has not carried out any assessment of ongoing corona pandemic’s impact on employment or poverty, what has been reflected in the proposed budget for FY22, the citizen body said.

Lack of the real time and disaggregated data on the hardship of people already lagging behind or pushed back into poverty by the pandemic is the main reason for this, it indentified. “Data gap has now turned into data anarchy,” Dr Debapriya remarked, pointing fingers at Bangladesh Bureau of Statics (BBS) that has not conducted any household or labour survey after 2016.

Although budget has been touted as business friendly, it has overlooked the large informal business sector, Dr Debapriya alleged. “It is business friendly, but large business friendly.”

Analyzing budget data, he also showed that social safety net allocation increased mainly because of higher spending on pension in FY22.

Without pension, the allocation declined to 3.34 percent of GDP and 13.41 percent of GDP in the next fiscal year compared to 3.35 percent and 13.49 percent allocation made in FY21 respectively, he showed.

He questioned why Bangladesh pays lower old age and widow allowances compared to that in Indian capital New Delhi when Bangladesh has surpassed its large neighbor in terms of per-capita income.

Echoing Dr Debapriya, another noted economist Prof Mustafizur Rahman observed that the planned budget expenditure could not address the post-Covid-19 inequalities in terms of resource redistribution.

He thinks that the budget should have focused more on cash transfer to old or new economically vulnerable people at this critical moment.

Currently, many countries are “aggressively” transferred money to the poor people for increasing consumption and demand, he argued. “We hope that the budget as an ongoing process will increase cash transfer in the coming months.”

Encouraging businesses won’t be possible only with fiscal measures without improving ease of doing business situation, he pointed out.

Health expert Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury  welcomed the fiscal measures aimed at lowering prices of sanitary napkin, toilet pan or hiking cigarette price.

But he said the budget did not outlined any specific plan to address main problem of the health sector, calling for immediate start of reform process in the health sector for achieving SDGs.

He also called for bringing 80 percent population under Covid-19 vaccination programme by June 2022.  

Business leader Asif Ibrahim hailed the move to promote export substitute product industries and expand ‘Made in Bangladesh’ campaign.

About budget’s high hope for employment generation, he said the government needs to raise investment to increase employment from a slugging trend that has a reflection in single-digit private sector credit growth at present.

For this SMEs and marginalized businesses should have been encouraged through budgetary measures apart from large businesses. But it has been missed out in the budget, he also observed. Former adviser to caretaker government Rasheda K Choudhury said the budget did not address problems of some 60,000 non-MPO teachers and the corona-induced digital divide, hamper in educational life of poor student and their families.

Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation executive director Shaheen Anam also addressed the virtual event chaired by the Platform’s core group member Advocate Sultana Kamal and coordinated by Anisatul Fatema Yousuf.