Budget to be placed tomorrow

Ensure revival of economy

04 June 2014 Kazi Zahidul Hasan

The national budget for the fiscal year 2014-15 is set to be placed before the Parliament tomorrow (Thursday) and it is widely presumed that it would remain almost the same as of the current one excepting some ups and downs in the figures of income and expenditure, sources said.
The size of the upcoming fiscal budget, as hinted by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, is likely to be around Tk 2,50,000 crore against the size of the current fiscal of Tk 2, 22000 crore.
So, the government is going to place another big and ambitious budget without bringing any major reforms in both expenditures and revenue collection, said a finance ministry official.         
He said the next budget would remain almost the same like the previous one as the government would try to translate its political pledges through the budgetary measures.
A large size of allocation is likely to go in favour various development programmes taken under political consideration, added the official.   
When asked, he said, spending priorities in the next budget is set to infrastructure development, power generation, education and widening social safety net.
Size of the Annual Development Programme (ADP) is likely to be set at Tk 80,000 crore, projecting 32 per cent growth, against the revised one of Tk 60,000 crore for the current fiscal year. The target of inflation might be kept at around 7.0 per cent for the next fiscal year.
The government is going to project a 7.3 per cent GDP growth for the fiscal 2014-15, despite having an economic growth well below the target set in the current fiscal year.
The targeted GDP growth for the current fiscal has been set at 7.2 per cent, while development partners and economists have forecast a growth below 6.0 per cent.
The target for National Board of Revenue (NBR), as hinted by its chairman, will be around Tk 1,49,000 crore in the upcoming fiscal. Although the revenue collection target for the current fiscal was Tk 1,36000 crore, later it was revised to Tk 1,25,000 crore.  
Contradicting the budget as usual, economists and fiscal analysts on Tuesday said that the government should set its economic priorities, avoiding large-scale public expenditure in unnecessary projects under political consideration in the next budget. "Budget should not be traded compromise for partisan flavour and it should not be only a political statement rather it should focus on economic priorities," former finance adviser Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam told The New Nation yesterday.
He said, the budget should be focused on necessary expenditure in the productive sectors to spur growth and job creation. "Adequate budgetary allocation should go to improvements in infrastructure, education, training, export diversification and scientific research," he added.
  At the same time, the government should take necessary steps in spending cuts in its non-development budget and measures should be taken on widening tax net (direct tax) from high-income earners.
When both the economy and investment remained stagnant, the government must fix the spending priorities on the basis of prevailing economic condition.
"Pragmatic budgetary measures are needed to boost investment in both public and private sectors. Besides, it should not opt for only for the political stunt in the budget as the national economy is facing various challenges," he added.
 Dr Mirza Azizul Islam further said what can the government do in the budget is to raise fund both by cutting some lower-priority spending and raising some revenues, particularly through a series of measures to curb loopholes that are used particularly by very high-income people to avoid paying taxes.
He said, the economic growth (6 per cent) remained stuck up over a period of last 13 years and the government should concentrate on the issue by taking proper steps to accelerate the growth.
"The economy is under stagnation and its needs to recover. So, the burning issue for the government is overcome the economic stagnation," he noted.
Former Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Salehuddin Ahmed said the upcoming national budget should give trust on revival of economy, overcoming challenges at the economic front, particularly resolving the energy crisis and reducing non-development expenditures.
Besides, priorities in the upcoming budget should be fixed on to reduce fiscal deficit and inflation, enhance revenue collection and welfare of the people.
The budget will also focus on introduction of reforms for improving governance, capacity building in projects implementation and boosting private sector investment, he added.
When asked, he also said, too many development projects under political consideration would yield nothing rather create misuse of public fund. And finally, it would hurt the economy.
 The former BB governor said the budget should put on more focus on development of energy sector and infrastructure. "These are the bases for the development of industries.
"Once industries are developed it would create huge job opportunities, narrow down the trade deficit and help develop export oriented products," he noted.

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