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Rural infrastructures, agriculture, health to get priority in next budget

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal today said that the areas and sectors which are associated with the lives and livelihood of common people like rural infrastructures, agriculture and health sector would get priority in the next budget for FY22 in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic situation.

“Those areas and sectors which are associated with the lives and livelihood of people will get priority in the next budget. We’ll have to spend more in rural infrastructures, agriculture, and health sectors ……..we’ll have to ensure cent percent service delivery of the health sector through utilizing its resources in full capacity,” he said.

The Finance Minister was briefing reporters virtually after holding a pre-budget meeting for the next fiscal year (FY22) in zoom platform with the leading economists of the country.

Country’s eminent economists Prof Rehman Sobhan, Dr Wahiduddin Mahmud, M Matiul Islam, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Dr Salehuddin Ahmed, Dr Atiur Rahman, Dr Mohammad Tareque, Dr Mahbub Ahmed, Dr Zaidi Sattar, Dr Ahsan H Mansur, Dr Mustafizur Rahman, Dr Jamaluddin Ahmed, Dr Naznin Ahmed and Prof Atiqul Islam, among others, took part in the pre-budget meeting.

Answering to a question, Kamal said the whole of the world is now going through a crisis owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the next national budget would also be framed considering that aspect.

He said the next budget would be formulated accommodating those issues which are dependent on the international arena adding that the next budget is unlikely to be a usual budget, rather it is likely to be a budget of “exceptional time.”

The Finance Minister said the renowned economists have suggested the government to move forward considering the current context adding that their new thoughts and suggestions often helps the government in framing the budget.

“Not a single country, rather the whole of the world is now going through a crisis (COVID-19) and we’ll structure our next budget with such initiatives to face that crisis successfully,” he added.

Kamal said if possible, the suggestions and proposals of the leading economists would be considered and incorporated in the next budget.

Asked about the possible measures of the government to support the low-income group people who are hit hard during the countrywide lockdown during this pandemic situation, he said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself is looking over the matter and she would do whatever is necessary for keeping up the lives and livelihood of people.

Replying to a question about the low tax-GDP ratio of the country, Kamal acknowledged that the ratio is still low compared to other countries, but he noted that the ratio could have been higher if the government could realize tax from all the sectors and sources.

“We don’t collect tax from many areas as we give concessions and exemptions…we don’t impose tax on many government projects like mega projects …….for which the tax-GDP ratio can’t be increased to that extent it is supposed to increase,” he said adding that the issue was discussed last year and will also be discussed this year.

Kamal, however, noted that if tax is imposed on the development projects to a wider scale, then the project cost would increase as would the pressure on the common people.

When asked about the economists’ reaction over the suggestions from the business community to expand further the scope and timeframe of the stimulus packages announced by the government to offset the shock of COVID-19, he said the economists had wanted to know whether the stimulus packages covered the targeted beneficiaries.

The Finance Minister said the economists who attended the meeting had suggested to further expand and increase the timeframe of the stimulus packages adding that the Premier would be informed about this and she would take the decision in this regard.

Besides, he said they have suggested the government for pursuing expansionary monetary policy so that everybody could get support while the lives and livelihood of people remain intact.

Referring to the speech of the Prime Minister to increase the capacity and coverage of the health sector and also to ensure its service delivery, he said definitely sufficient funds would be allocated against the health sector in the next budget so that the common people would get qualitative service. “Necessary directives will be there in the next budget in this regard.”

Asked about the opinion from the economists regarding the existing provision for whitening the undisclosed money, Kamal said they wanted to know whether those who are paying tax legally feel discouraged under this existing provision.

In this connection, the Finance Minister asserted that the source of the undisclosed money should have to be stopped, but it would not get stopped in a single day, rather more time is needed.

“Discussion is going on and we’ll stop this (source of undisclosed money) as early as possible, Insha Allah,” he added.

Replying to another question about the possible corporate tax cut of the companies, Kamal said that the government is gradually reducing tax at both individual and corporate level and it would be further reduced gradually.

He said that tax at corporate level was slashed in the last budget while it is likely to be reduced slightly in each budget.

The Finance Minister said the aim of the government is to further strengthen the domestic industries, especially there will be some measures in the next budget for the import substitute industries.

Source: United News of Bangladesh