Friday, June 12th, 2020

‘Budget aims to protect lives, livelihoods amid pandemic’

Published 9:48 pm | June 12, 2020

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Online Desk : Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Friday said the proposed national budget for the next fiscal of 2020-2021 aims to protect lives and livelihoods amid the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
He said the budget is implementable. It is not a traditional one, as it was prepared under an abnormal situation.

The Finance Minister was addressing a virtual post-budget media briefing in the capital.

He proposed a Tk 5,68,000 crore– budget on Thursday for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget eyes 8.4% GDP growth, with a deficit financing of Tk 1,90,000 crore, or 6 per cent of the estimated gross domestic product.

The Finance Minister, however, admitted the estimated budget had some inconsistencies, due mainly to the abnormal situation faced by the nation.

Responding to a question, the Finance Minister said the money is not a problem for reviving the health sector and addressing the COVID-19 casualty affecting both lives and livelihoods in the country.

Increased budgetary allocation would be provided to the health ministry as long as they ensured health services in the country, he assured.

In the programme, Finance Division Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder said health ministry could easily spend the Tk 10,000 crore, earmarked as a block allocation in the proposed budget, for addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Describing the philosophy of the announced budget, the finance minister said the budget would help stimulate the economy by accommodating the unemployed into the workforce.

“Creating employment and saving lives is the spirit of the budget,” he told the briefing. The minister could not attend last year’s after-budget conference due to dengue fever.

“Unlike other times, we will spend first and earn later this time as coronavirus upended our traditional system of budget financing.”

On a question of the resource to finance the budget, the finance minister said the government would go to both local and overseas sources for finance.

He hoped the pandemic would not last long, and vowed to address the consequences efficiently in case the pandemic prolonged in the country.

“We also know the mechanism of how to survive and grow under a corona-ravaged economy.”

Mustafa Kamal said the revenue to GDP must go up to 15 to 16% from the current 10 to 11% of GDP for building a better Bangladesh.

Automation in the revenue system and launching Vat machine soon would help the nation achieve a higher revenue income, he hoped.

Health and agriculture were two priority sectors for the government as they involved lives and livelihoods, Kamal said at the conference.

Responding to a question of bank finance and huge budgetary bank borrowing target, he said it is not necessary that banks must have enough liquidity. Rather, banks would multiply their available resources.

“Banks are in a better condition compared to two years back,” the finance minister said.

While responding to the stagnant private sector investment, he said private investment would increase in the economy to invest in the economic zones, attracted by the generous investment policies of the government.

“We had not known the reasons for a long while, as to why the foreign direct investment (FDI) had not come in the country. Now, we know and took steps through easing business regulations,” the finance minister said.

Besides economic zones and flexible FDI regulations, the 9% lending rate would attract huge local and foreign investment in the economy, Kamal said.

Focusing on the ailing capital market, AHM Mustafa Kamal said no country in the globe took any specific measures to revitalize the share market, as the markets behaved with the ups and downs of their economies.

“We will look into the weird behaviour of our capital market. The government will bring public sector entities into the market,” he said.

Responding to a question relating to money laundering and the punishment against launders, the finance minister said no effective laws existed in the country to stop money laundering from home to abroad.

“We have to revisit our existing laws in this regard,” he said.

Besides, automation would help contain the trend, Kamal added.

“If no acts exist, we will enact those to arrest the trend of money laundering.”

Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Advisor Mashiur Rahman said, operational and management faults in the health sector must be removed so that it could provide optimum services to patients.

The National Board of Revenue Chairman Abu Hena Md. Rahmatul Muneem said achieving the revenue target would be challenging under the influence of the virus.

He said the 5 per cent increase of supplementary duty on mobile phone service would not weigh on common people that much.

Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir said the banking sector had no liquidity crisis as the central bank provided the banks Tk 40,000 crore under refinancing schemes.

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