Speakers for framing pandemic-focused budget in FY22

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DHAKA, May 4, 2021 (BSS) – Speakers at a webinar today stressed the need for framing a COVID-19 pandemic focused budget for the next fiscal year (FY22) putting highest priority to the health sector to mitigate the health related risks alongside focusing on sound macroeconomic management, widening social safety nets, raising the tax-GDP ratio and generating more employments.

The speakers also emphasized on strengthening the ongoing vaccination programme, carrying on necessary tax reforms as well as reducing the corporate tax rates, ensuring proper budget implementation and quality spending of development projects, addressing the livelihood issues in the context of pandemic, prioritizing the CMSMEs and bringing the education sector under the purview of the stimulus packages.

The country’s leading economists, professionals, business leaders, and civil society representatives gave such recommendations at a webinar on “Macroeconomy: Expectations from National Budget 2021-22” held today.

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) and the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) jointly organized the webinar.

Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman spoke at the webinar as the chief guest.

BGMEA President Faruque Hassan, MCCI President Barrister Nihad Kabir, DCCI President Rizwan Rahman, former adviser to the caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury, Chairman of Trustee Board of BUILD Abul Kasem Khan, Executive Director of PRI Dr Ahsan H Mansur, FICCI President Rupali Haque Chowdhury, former President of AmCham AKM Aftabul Islam, distinguished fellow of CPD Prof Mustafizur Rahman, senior research fellow of BIDS Dr Nazneen Ahmed, Chairman of PEB Dr M Masrur Reaz, executive director of SANEM Dr Selim Raihan, chief news editor of the Daily Prothom Alo Shawkat Hossain Masum, BASIS President Syed Almas Kabir, ICAB Vice Presidents Sidhartha Barua, Md Abdul Kader Joaddar and council member of ICAB Mohammad Forkan Uddin spoke at the webinar.

ICAB President Mahmudul Hasan Khusru chaired the webinar while its past president Md Humayun Kabir moderated the webinar.

CEO of ICAB Shubhashish Bose gave an introduction of the topic. ERF President Sharmin Rinvy made the opening remarks while its general secretary SM Rashidul Islam gave the vote of thanks. ICAB Vice President Maria Howlader gave the closing remarks.

PM’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman agreed with the suggestions of the participants of the webinar to enhance budgetary allocation on the health sector and thus strengthen the ongoing vaccination campaign.

Stressing the need for carrying out necessary reforms in the financial sector and in the revenue sector, he said reforms in the capital market and bond market is also necessary to attract the large scale investors.

The Adviser noted that if the lion share of the deficit financing could be made available from the foreign sources then its impact in the domestic sector would be not that much.

Dr Mashiur also stressed the need for boosting confidence among the businesses and investors, attracting more FDI, ensuring skills development and sound basic education up to secondary level.

Rasheda K Chowdhury said that the next year’s budget should be a pandemic-focused one while the education sector should be brought under the stimulus package as the losses to this sector is huge and it is invisible. “Education sector must not be less prioritized.”

Executive director of PRI Dr Ahsan H Mansur proposed for allocating Taka 15,000 crore for vaccination in the next budget and that fund should be made available from day one.

For the new poor being created from the impacts of COVID-19, he said only cash support is not enough for them, rather some permanent measures should be awarded for them.

The renowned economist also suggested for addressing the livelihood issues due to the pandemic, prioritizing the SMEs in the stimulus packages, focusing more on expenditure and thus opined that the budget deficit could be stretched from 7 to 8 percent.

Distinguished fellow of CPD Prof Dr Mustafizur Rahman put emphasis on generating more employments, giving relief to the import substitute Industries through taxation, revisiting the import regulations, enhancing quality expenditure, and ensuring necessary reforms.

He was also of critical about the scope for whitening undisclosed money in the budget saying it is an injustice to the honest taxpayers.

BGMEA President Faruque Hassan urged the government to provide policy support to the affected industries till the crisis ends so that those could make a turnaround.

MCCI President Barrister Nihad Kabir put utmost priority on ensuring qualitative spending of development projects through real time basis monitoring and evaluation by the IMED, raising the tax-GDP ratio, giving policy support to CMSMEs, and also to check the trend of dodging tax and laundering of money abroad.

DCCI President Rizwan Rahman suggested for reducing the corporate tax rate progressively by 2.5 percent in the next three years and thus bring it at 25 percent to facilitate the businesses.

Coming down heavily on the scope for whitening undisclosed money, he said that the business community would not accept such provision for whitening the money coming from ‘burglary’.” Otherwise, the honest businesses will not feel encourage to pay tax from the next year,” he added.

Abul Kasem Khan of BUILD suggested for continuation of the stimulus packages in the next budget as well as rationalizing taxation measures and improving the investment climate.

BASIS President Syed Almas Kabir suggested for keeping the digital transaction out of the purview of VAT for the next 3 to 5 years to facilitate online transaction and wider materialization of the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ initiative.

Dr Masrur Reaz suggested for bringing around 50 percent of the country’s population under the vaccination programme in the next one year, otherwise the revival initiatives and recovery would be much tougher.

He also proposed for allocating one percent of GDP as social safety net for the poor as well as awarding another stimulus for the SMEs, especially for the small and micro entrepreneurs.

Dr Naznin Ahmed strongly advocated for reducing the corporate tax rate, prioritizing those development projects which are nearing completion, keeping budgetary allocation on creating health awareness as well as on health disaster management, making cheaper the internet facilities and also making available the gadgets for the poor students.

Dr Selim Raihan called for expanding economic operations and growth not having an obsessed mindset on growth, rolling out social safety net schemes for the urban poor, boosting business confidence through necessary measures, increasing budget implementation and ensuring some visible reforms.

ICAB President Khusru said the tax net is not widening that is why honest and existing taxpayers are overburdened with incremental tax recovery target.