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Scrutiny of supplementary budget

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14th-Jul-2017       
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Dr. Muhammad Abdul Mazid :
The Supplimentary Budget for the FY 2016-17  and the new  Budget for FY 2017-18 has already been accepted in the  Parliament. According to the existing norms,  legislative rules and procedure, the Supplimentary Budget will be cleared within a week after it is placed and the Proposed Budget  will be passed by Parliament by June 30 for the 'assent' of the Honble President of the Republic. Constitutionally Bangladesh budget is a document that should be recommended by the President for placing before the parliament and finally it must have his assent. In particular, the placing of Supplimentary Budget and its passage has got a very specific provision like ,
"91. If in respect of any financial year it is found -
(a)    that the amount authorised to be expended for a particular service for the current financial year is insufficient or that a need has arisen for expenditure upon some new service not included in the annual financial statement for that year; or
(b)    that any money has been spent on a service during a financial year in excess of the amount granted for that service for that year;
the President shall have power to authorise expenditure from the Consolidated Fund whether or not it is charged by or under the Constitution upon that Fund and shall cause to be laid before Parliament a supplementary financial statement setting out the estimated amount of the expenditure or, as the case may be, an excess financial statement setting out the amount of the excess, and the provisions of articles 87 to 90 shall (with the necessary adaptations) apply in relation to those statements as they apply in relation to the annual financial statement."
And in line with the quoted constitutional spirit, the Rules of Procedure of the Bangladesh Parliament has the provisions like  
"123. Supplementary, excess and exceptional grants and votes of credit
Supplementary, excess and exceptional grants and votes of credit shall be regulated by the same procedure as is applicable in the case of demands for grants subject to such adaptations, whether by way of modification, addition or omission, as the Speaker may deem necessary or expedient.
124.Scope of discussion on supplementary grants
The debate on the supplementary grants shall be confined to the items constituting the same and no discussion may be raised on the original grants nor policy underlying them save in so far as it may be necessary to explain or illustrate the particular items under discussion."
 Under this guidance nation seldom see any detailed discussion or debate on the Supplementary Budget placed in the parliament. It is cleared by the legislature mostly within next week of its placement. Traditionally in this part of our world Budget are prepared by Ministry of Finance , endorsed by Parliament without significant scrutiny ,implemented by different ministries and agencies of the government with not much adherence as it was not proposed by them  and again Parliament accept the Supplementary Budget in a smooth way.  Budget, apart from an outline of strategic plan and roadmap for development and non development fiscal measures,  is a fundamental memorandum of understanding both side  between the citizen and the government and both are legally bound to each other for its proper implementation.
Both the government and citizens are represented in the Parliament by the elected representatives , so the representatives are highly expected to have active  participation in the budget making, passing and overseeing its implementation.
In this context , the provision for  insignificant ( if not nothing) power to  review  authorizing  supplementary grants should not be seen as a simple affairs . The provision that 'President shall have power to authorise expenditure from the Consolidated Fund whether or not it is charged by or under the Constitution upon that Fund ' (91 b), might not go well with the provisions that Parliament must authorize and approve even  extra demand and expenditure under the Parliamentary form of government.
While shifting from Presidential to Parliamentary form of government in 1991  ,  perhaps this particular provision ( 91 b) was not touched upon  for necessary amendment. If parliament has a very limited role to review the Supplementary budget proposals then how it could pass on its responsibility to review public fund management?     
  Bangladesh Constitution has a clear  condition   that "83. No tax shall be levied or collected except by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament."  So parliament must endorse the new or revisions made in the tax policies during the current financial year other than which were passed by the parliament while adopting the Finance Bill.
In the current  budget (2017-18)  the revenue collection target has indeed been ambitious since it was more than 34 percent higher than that of the previous financial year(2016-17) ). Corporate Tax rates were  reduced, new tax exemptions were awarded to some sectors , minimum taxable income ceiling were not  raised though tax slabes have been raised to a new level,  in this context  with not so many new measures this time NBR faced  heavy  challenge is to achieve a growth of 30.
The ratio of contribution from non NBR revenues has been decreased enormously during last two financial years, it gave  a soft target this year too. Non NBR revenues are to coming from public sector corporation service organization and enterprises running commercially. More accountability to be ensured in the SoEs financial functionaries. As they have eaten up most of the foreign aid money for their development, they must pay back to the government in terms of SLA repayment.        
Effective initiatives are to be taken to make direct tax as the principal source of revenue with a view to ensuring socio-economic development and a society based on equity and justice through removing social disparity. Such initiatives are to be implementable to bring about a principle of equity in overall economic landscape.
In the proposed budget, along with enhancing investment and employment opportunities multifarious initiatives are to be  pronounced to  widen tax net. Stocktaking of implementation of initiatives announced earlier Fys are to be evaluated . It may not be perceived as good dividend.
Bangladesh tax system is needed to be  a reflection of our  socio `economic and cultural values rather than the values of the decision maker .. To create a system of taxation, a nation must make choices regarding the distribution of the tax burden-who will pay taxes and how much they will pay-and how the taxes collected will be spent.
In democratic nations where the public elects those in charge of establishing the tax system, these choices reflect the type of community that the public wishes to create. In countries where the public does not have a significant amount of influence over the system of taxation, that system may be more of a reflection on the values of those in power to enact law or to enforce collection .

[ Dr. Muhammad Abdul Mazid is former Secretary and former Chairman of NBR]

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