Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, MP, stated, “The budget of 2017-18 fiscal year is far-sighted and friendly to business, agriculture, poor people and development as it has been formulated targeting the Vision 2021. This budget has no connection with the upcoming national poll; rather it is for the next generation. This budget aims to work with a pro-people strategy.”
On the other hand, BNP General Secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged, “All the newspapers on Friday have written that massive tax load is imposed on people and they have got entangled in tax net. The entire nation, from the lower-income to higher-income ones, will have to bear the brunt of 15 percent VAT imposed on different goods in the budget. We think the budget will not be conducive to ensuring public welfare. Rather, it’ll become a burden on them.”
Besides, leaders of other political parties, economists, businessmen, experts and analysts have been discussing and writing articles on the huge budget of Tk 400,266 crore for 2017-18 fiscal year that was placed in the national parliament by Finance Minister AMA Muhith on June 1, with a title of ‘Bangladesh on Development Highway: The Time is Ours’, targeting 7.4 percent annual GDP growth and taming down inflation to 5.5 percent. Along with the analysis of experts, reaction of the public on the budget is crucial. After all, the budget is proposed for them. The mass people of the country are now more conscious than any other time. From tea stall, kitchen markets to social media people don’t hesitate to express their opinion. That is why along with other stakeholders how mass people are considering the newly placed budget is decisive for our development.
Mehnaz Rahman Dola, an assistant teacher of an English medium school of Dhanmondi, opined, “The budget this year unnecessarily imposed VAT on the English medium schools. It will create additional pressure on both the guardians and school authority. Education is a basic right. How can government take VAT for education? This is completely unfair.”
Life of the limited-income people should come to the consideration in any economic discussion. Azizul Islam, machine operator of a readymade garment factory, said, “I don’t understand budget. Every year government places a budget, but it does nothing for us instead of increasing the prices of a few essential commodities. If this year’s budget doesn’t allow the businessmen to increase the prices of rice, lentils, fish and vegetables, I will be glad.”
Sheuli Rani Sarker, a housewife who lives in Old Dhaka’s Laxmibazar, considers the newly placed budget as an irrational load on the mass people. She shared, “When I came to know about the reduction of kitchen market goods and other essentials, I was happy. But, the news of the rise of the price of powdered milk has made me frustrated. Moreover, I have to spend more money from this month as the gas price has been increased. The budget is scheduled to be implemented from the next month, but unfortunately the prices of the goods that are soared in the proposed budget are already high, when prices of the goods proposed to experience a fall are being sold in the previous price. There is no one to monitor such irregularities.”
When asked about the complaints of the customers, Ziaul Kabir, owner of a grocery shop in capital’s Lalmatia area, replied, “Every year when the Finance Minister places budget in the parliament, prices of some goods rise and some other goods fall. Customers then argue about the price. But being a grocery shop owner what can I do? Prices of the goods depend on the wholesalers.”
Mizanur Rahman Shumon has recently completed Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree from Mohammadpur Central University College under National University. As a fresh graduate and job seeker, he searched for the government initiative for inspiring local and foreign investment in the budget.
Mizanur Rahman Shumon said, “Though local investment is going up, but the foreign investment is not coming to the country. If government can’t encourage investment, new employment opportunity will not be created. Finance Minister has said about creating 1.6 million new job opportunities, but this is never enough. Bangladesh already has more than 20 million of unemployed youths. At least 2 million job seekers are coming to the job market every year. What will happen to them?”
This correspondent met Shariar Parvez, an executive of a reputed business conglomerate of the country, in Gulshan last Sunday. He alleged, “Government should encourage corporate sector to invest more, but this year’s budget has increased the corporate tax. As a result the corporate companies will have to work under pressure and officials like me might become the victim of the cost cutting policy of the company.”
Maulana Nurul Islam, Khatib, Baitul Atiq Jam’e Mosque, Banasree, stated, “I am happy about the recently declared budget. I have found that the price of the essential commodities hasn’t been increased. So, it will not affect the mass people’s life. I hope that the government will implement the budget efficiently and bring better days for us, InShaAllah.”
Munira Emdad, owner of Tangail Saree Kutir, opined, “Being an entrepreneur when I have seen that the government has imposed 15% VAT on every product, I have become tense about my business. I have strong doubt about the efficiency of the NBR officials. They are not prepared yet. They wouldn’t collect fixed VAT from every businessman. Thus the honest businessmen will be affected and the greedy businesspersons will take the benefit out of it.”
Goutom Shutradhar, owner of a furniture store in Mirpur, shared, “Price of the readymade furniture will be increased according to the proposal of budget 2017-18. The rate of the furniture is already high due to the shortage of quality wood. Moreover, new furniture companies are expanding their business through new showrooms and developing their brand image. As a result, all small furniture businessmen like me are going through a tough condition. In such a situation if government remains strict to their decision, I have to think about the future of my business.”
The criticism is getting stronger due to the decision of an increase in the amount of excise duty on bank account holders. Accounts with balance between Tk 1 lakh to Tk 10 lakh at any time of a year has been proposed to be brought under a duty of Tk 800 excise tax from existing Tk 500 per annum. Retired persons who are not interested in new investments feel safe keeping their money in the bank and somehow manage to lead their life from the interest they receive from the bank. This decision of an increase in the excise duty has annoyed them much. ABM Moazzem Hossain, a former senior officer of a commercial bank who has kept the money gained from his provident fund and gratuity in a bank, said, “I will have to face the worst impact because of this strange decision of the government. Every government in the democratic countries encourages people to keep their money in the banks. You will find that the banks in the developed countries even don’t charge the small account holders, but in our country government is creating problems for the depositors. And the directors and owners of the banks are silent about all the decisions of the government as they are allowed to make banks their family property. Government has increased the salary of the government employees. They should create pressure on the NBR officials so that they search new tax payers and expand tax net for collecting the revenue. But instead they are targeting the depositors so that they can collect revenue without doing much work. I have already given my tax, then why I need to pay tax second time for the same money?”
Md Mahmudul Hasan, Lecturer, Department of EEE, Noakhali Science and Technology University, shared, “I see the budget with a realistic view. This budget has allocated more on science and technology. This is really significant. It is a visionary one. The budget has enlarged the social safety network through inspiring different projects by the department of social welfare. I think the poor people will get more benefits from it.”
Onushua Haq, a cultural activist, shared her opinion about the proposed budget in front of Bulbul Lolitokola Academy in Mirpur Road. She stated, “Allocation for the Ministry of Cultural Affairs is reduced to Tk 417 crore, down by Tk 4 crore from Tk 421 crore allocated in the original budget proposal for FY 2016-17. Only Tk 193 crore was proposed to be allocated for development works when remaining money would be spent in paying salaries of the government officials and utility bills and other non-development works. In the budget for the FY 2016-17, finance minister allocated Tk 421 for the Ministry of Cultural Affairs while the allocation went down to Tk 366 crore in the revised budget. I think it will happen again. This tiny allocation will not be sufficient for the expenses and development works of the ministry and its 17 agencies. It indicates the attitude of the government towards cultural activities. They should understand that no development activity will be sustainable without the improvement in culture.”
When asked about the proposed budget, Javed Mia, a bus driver who lives in capital’s Gabtoli area, replied, “Budget is not for the poor people like me. It’s only for the people who are rich. There is nothing in the budget for the transport workers. It doesn’t instruct the transport owners to introduce insurance policy for the transport workers. I am not sure how much initiatives will be taken to improve the poorly constructed roads we have.”
While talking to this correspondent, Anisur Rahman Khondokar, a NGO worker of Narayanganj’s Rupganj area, stated, “While the World Bank recommends that construction of a new four-lane highway should cost Tk 17 crore per kilometre, we expense Tk 118 crore per kilometre. When countries like India, UK, USA are not spending more than Tk 11 crore for four-lane upgrades, Bangladesh’s expenses is around Tk 54 crore on an average. Tk 123 crore is spent in Bangladesh on building one kilometre stretch of a flyover while the cost is less than Tk 100 crore in India, Pakistan and China. According to a data provided by Global Financial Integrity unrecorded capital flow from Bangladesh stood $61.63 billion between 2005 and 2014. What step the government has taken in the budget to reduce the cost in implementing development projects and bringing back the black money from abroad and stopping the illicit flow of capital? They have done nothing regarding this; moreover they have created a VAT trap through this budget.”
Budget is actually a yearly economic policy for every country, which reflects how the incumbent government wants to implement the plans they have. As our economy is growing, budget is also expanding. In order to manage money for the big budget the government is increasing the amount of tax and VAT. This year the overall budget deficit has been set at Tk 112,275 crore which is 5 percent of the GDP and constitutes over 30 percent of the total outlay. Finance Minister thinks that this deficit will be financed with foreign loans of Tk 46,420 crore, which didn’t come even in the last four years. In such a situation, it will be a big challenge for the government to make any adjustment regarding the tax and VAT in the budget. However, there will be more discussions in and outside the parliament throughout this month. Mass people expect that the parliament will remove all the proposals that they consider as against their interest before passing the final budget.