Govt feels self-complacency working for only some people: Sultana Kamal

Noted human right activist advocate Sultana Kamal on Sunday criticised the current budget for ‘not having clear support plan’ for the disadvantaged community in this Covid pandemic, saying that the government feels self-complacency protecting the interest of some people.

“I would like to share my analysis that isolation has occurred between the government and the common people, which we’ve seen more acutely in this Covid situation,” she said at a media briefing.

Citizen’s Platform for SDGs Bangladesh arranged the media briefing over “Implementation of National Budget 2021-22: What benefit will the disadvantaged people get?” through a virtual platform.

Sultana Kamal, also a member of the Citizen’s Platform, said, “Though we say that we are living in a democratic society….. But we have many words (questions) over the election, which is the first and foremost step for democracy.”

“Questions can also be raised over how much we think those who govern the State as our men or how much they (Govt) think us as their men,” she said.

If the budget is evaluated from this perspective, there is isolation between the government and the common people or community particularly the disadvantaged people, she said adding that the government may have relations of interest with the people who are surrounding it or who assist it politically and socially or any other ways.

“We’re in such a political system that if those of us who are in charge of governing the State can protect the interests of some people, they feel self-complacency. They get praises from them (the particular section of people) and can understand that what they (government) did is a very wonderful job,” said Sultana Kamal.

Noting that the national budget for 2020-21 had to be adopted last year amid unknown and sudden Covid-19 situation, she said this time the government got a full year before the preparation of the budget, but the new problems caused by the pandemic were not recognised there.

She said it is as usual budget having nothing for the recovery from the Covid-19 fallout. “Some ad-hoc based steps were taken and works have been done, but the steps, which are very essential to rebound from this distress, unfortunately remain missing here,” she said.

“Some 3-3.5 crore people have become poor afresh. We’ve not find any clear plan to pay attention to them in the budget,” said Sultana Kamal, also the Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra.

Convenor of Citizen’s Platform Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said the government should provide direct food and cash support for the disadvantaged people as they may be awaiting tougher situations in the current fiscal year than the last fiscal.

“We fear that the disadvantaged community may be more distressed in 2021-22. Because, we fear that the pressure would increase on them further for the current pandemic situation,” he said.

Alongside providing free foods, the government also needs to expand open market sale (OMS) of foods at subsidized prices up to grassroots level in order to keep food price stable as the food inflation has recently witnessed a big jump, said Dr Debapriya.

“If we don’t provide direct cash support to them, not only the community will become poorer or deprived, but also their next generation will face malnutrition, physical and mental disabilities. It will emerge as a big national problem in future,” he said, adding that some 80 per cent people cut down their food expenses according to a recent survey.

Noting that the government stimulus packages, he said though the government has so far taken 30 Covid-related support interventions (including five new ones) amounting to Tk 128,194 crore, there is a very low share of fiscal and food support compared to hybrid ones (subsidized and interest based stimuli).

He said there are 13 fiscal and 4 food support interventions accounting for less than 20.5 per cent of the total allocation, while hybrid amounting to nearly 79.53 per cent.

Besides, nearly 39 per cent of fiscal stimulus packages were disbursed, while over 75 per cent of hybrid stimulus packages were disbursed within June 2021, he noted.

Dr Debapriya said the targeted GDP growth rate for 2020-21 fiscal was revised down from 8.2 per cent to 5.2 per cent, but the final figures would obviously be lower.

Prof Mustafizur Rahman, a member of the Citizen’s Platform said it is essential to strengthen direct cash transfer and OMS programmes in the current fiscal year just not considering the present food inflation rate.

“Rice prices witnessed over 20 per cent hike last year. If I say now that the inflation rate is 4-5 per cent, it will not give us a real picture,” he said, adding that the marginalized people are facing trouble to purchase food due to lower income and food price hike.

Besides, members of the Citizen’s Platform Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Shaheen Anam, Rasheda K Choudhury, Asif Ibrahim and Dr Mustaque Reza Chowdhury also spoke on the occasion.

Source: United News of Bangladesh