50th budget of the country has been placed in the parliament on June 3. Annual budget is, in fact, a prime public policy having visible and tremendous implications for the country’s economy. When budget session approaches, people of various professions get anxious and excited. It brings good news for some and disappointment for others. Just after placing of budget in the parliament, opinions and comments pour in. Economists and financial analysts come up with in-depth analyses. Civil society people look at its governance perspective with special focus on whitening opportunity of black money. Apparently, the recent budget seems to have good news for both rich and poor people with little ray of relief for the middle class.
As a general rule, political leaders supporting the treasury bench laud a budget highly. However, opposition parties term it an anti-poor budget. Common people do not enjoy going through the nitty-gritty of the budget. Most of their interest focuses on increase and decrease of prices of various items. A large number of people including businessmen watch keenly the taxation issue. In fact, tax, VAT, and other government levies directly impact businesses. Income tax is also a matter of great interest to the people with fixed and nominal income. Though businessmen can enjoy some flexibility in terms of income tax, people paid from the government exchequer do not get that opportunity.Though income of employees of public sector and autonomous bodies has not lessened due to COVID-19, businessmen and private sector employees have suffered badly and incurred losses. Consequently, there was an expectation regarding increase of tax-free income limit. However, the government did not increase the limit, which was raised to 3 lakh from 2.5 lakh in 2020. It could have been increased to give some comfort to the people in lower-middle income tiers. However, surcharge for the very rich people has increased. In fact, the tax net and system should be such that it does not become a headache for the taxpayers.
A significant feature of the latest budget is almost doubling of monthly allowances for the valiant freedom fighters. It has been made taka 20000 in place of taka 12000. It is indeed great news for the war heroes. In fact, Awami League government’s attention towards the liberation war veterans is highly praiseworthy. In fact, many freedom fighters and their families have languished for long. The allowances have been a great boon for them. In fact, more opportunities and facilities should be in place for the freedom fighters who risked their lives for our independence. However, many freedom fighters cannot avail of the facilities due to not having certificates.
Another big pro-people component of the latest budget is bringing 8 lakh more elderly people into the net of old age allowances. In fact, social safety net for the underprivileged people including elderly people, widowed, disabled, third sex, tea labourer and some other hapless people has remained a salient feature of the current government’s responsibility and care for the disadvantaged people. The net and amount of such allowances have increased consistently over the years. However, there remain some problems in selection of real beneficiaries due to bias and corruption of some local government representatives.
As expected, allocation for the health sector has increased significantly in the budget with a 12 percent increase from the last year. And, it is 5.4 percent of the national budget. The increase is laudable considering the increasing importance of the sector and the challenges brought about by COVID-19. In fact, millions of money has been invested in the sector till date. Though the investment is not big as against the need, proper use of public money in this sector remains a grave concern. Corruption in the sector cannot make people optimistic. If the rein of corruption cannot be checked, no big allocation is going to bring any positive change. In this connection, the Finance Minister has recently stressed on ways to streamline ‘purchase’ in the health sector.
People pay taxes from their hard-earned earnings. However, a section of people embezzle that money with inconceivable nature of corruption. What to make of the recent purchase where a needle, costing taka 250 in the market, has been purchased by taka 25000. Even the Satan himself will faint at this type of senseless act. What has happened to some people? How many bags of coffers will they take to their graves? Hope, the government will give them due punishment so that the taxpayers can be reassured. In fact, such sorts of plunders seriously affect people’s eagerness for paying taxes.
A news analysis has come up with an account about taxpayers’ contribution to the national budget. It says that taka 19 out of a taxpayer’s tax amount of taka 100 will be spent for paying salaries to the employees who are paid from the national exchequer. And, taka 7.7 out of taka 100 will be spent for paying pension to the retired public sector, autonomous body and other related employees. It is thus clear that public sector employees are, in fact, paid by the people for their services. However, attitude towards the taxpayers has not improved much. Long ago, Bangabandhu urged government employees to behave well with the taxpayers and his speech with that appeal reverberates in the social media.Millions of money are allocated each year for many sectors. A sum of taxpayers’ money comes back directly to the people in terms of allowances and other benefits. For development and proper functioning of the state machineries, people’s tax is a great necessity. The more people pay taxes; the flatter will be the national exchequer. People are not always averse to paying taxes. However, as implied before, misuse of public money discourages the taxpayers and that also becomes an excuse for tax evasion. Thus, all the state machineries are expected to utilise public money in such a way that taxpayers do not feel duped. Proper use of people’s taxes will definitely boost up the total taxation system.
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration and
Chancellor’s Nominee Syndicate Member, University of Chittagong. Email: [email protected]