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Not an election budget: Muhith

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Staff Reporter :
The next fiscal's budget for 2018-19 will not be an election budget despite the general elections is knocking at the door, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said on Monday.
"The budget at an expenditure outlay of Tk 4,70,000 crore will reflect the continuation of the ruling Awami League government's economic policies although it is going to unveil ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election. The government has maintained strict fiscal policy since 2009 and will continue to do so," Muhith said this at a media briefing held in the conference room of the finance ministry.
Rejecting the speculation that the next budget will be an "election budget," he said, "All these are 'senseless' thoughts.  The government is going to place another balanced budget considering the prosperity of the nation."   
He also said budget always reflects political agenda of a ruling government and it will remain so in the next budget.  
"The budget will be based on three pillars- human resource development, employment generation and acceleration of investment through rapid infrastructure development," he explained.
He said the upcoming budget will support the government's development objective.
Replying to a question an upbeating finance minister said, despite the large current account deficit the economy is expected to remain buoyant in the next fiscal taking advantage of the government's supportive policies.
He said the budget deficit target would remain 5.0 percent of GDP despite the big hole in current account balance and it will not act as a constraint on the economy.
The allocation for Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the coming fiscal year is likely to be Tk 178,296 crore, up from the outgoing fiscal year, sources at the Finance Ministry.
Besides, the government may set the GDP growth target for the upcoming fiscal year at 7.8 percent.  
Muhith said the revenue collection target for the next fiscal year is likely to be fixed at Tk 340,775 crore, up 18 percent from that of the current fiscal year. The revenue collection target for fiscal 2017-18 is Tk 287,990 crore.
Muhith said the government will increase spending in education, power and energy, transport, infrastructure and social safety net programmes to create jobs, attract more investment and welfare programme of the people. "We will increase revenue earning to allow higher spending."
He, however, said no new taxes will be imposed on individuals and companies and the next budget will propose cut in corporate tax. The personal income tax ceiling will remain unchange in the next budget.
The minister also said that changes may be brought into the VAT structure in the next budget. The VAT slab will be brought into five from nine at present. The highest VAT rate would be proposed at 15 percent.  
The budget session begins today and Muhith will place the next national budget at Jatiya Sangsad on Thursday.
He will start unveiling the budget in presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Begum Rowshan Ershad in the House.
This will be the country's 47th budget and the 18th of the Awami League government while the 12th for Muhith.
"I feel proud of being presenting the 12th national budget. It is a great achievement for me. I am so happy to serve the people and the nation for such a long-time," he said.
When asked, he said, " Yes I decided to go to retirement after this budget. But it will depend on the party decision because I am loyal to Awami League."   
On June 1, 2017, Muhith placed the Tk 400,266 crore national budget for fiscal year 2017-18.

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