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Budget for smart Bangladesh

Ariful Islam

by tbhad
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina along with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal heading towards the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban before placing the 23rd budget for 2023-24 fiscal year on Thursday. Photo: Focus Bangla

Being successful in making Bangladesh digital Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stepped up efforts towards building smart Bangladesh. Keeping this in mind her government placed the national budget for 2023-24 fiscal year in the National Parliament.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s main objective is to change the lot of the toiling masses. The aim of the budget is to address the problems faced by the common man and the marginal people of the country.

A rickshaw puller, for instance, earns Tk700-800 per day. This is a good income for him to maintain his family. Then again there are marginal farmers, who are in most cases sharecroppers. They get 50 per cent of the total produce of the land they till and with this they can meet the annual expenses of their families.

The garment workers at the initial stage get a monthly wage of Tk6000-7000. The skilled and experienced hands in this sector get Tk15,000 toTk20,000 per month with which they can meet the family expenditures.

The aim of the budget is to address the problems of the marginal people and elevate their living standard further from the present status. It should be reviewed whether this objective has been reflected in the  budget.

The government has rolled out a smart national budget of Tk 7,61,785 crore for the 2023-24 fiscal year with a focus on tackling inflation as well as on job creation, the fourth industrial revolution and “Smart Bangladesh.”

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal placed the budget titled “Towards Smart Bangladesh Sustaining the Development Achievements in a Decade and a Half” in the national parliament on Thursday with a 7.5 percent GDP growth and 6 percent inflation projection.

The Finance Minister said we expect to return to higher growth trajectory and achieve a 7.5 percent GDP growth in the coming fiscal year, by way of investing in the productive sectors and stimulating productivity and domestic demand.

However, this will be the largest-ever budget for Bangladesh, a long way from the first budget of Tk 786 crore placed by Tajuddin Ahmad for FY1972-73.

Before unveiling the budget, Kamal said the budget will be for the poor, and the social safety net will get a boost.

The Finance Minister proposed increasing the social safety net programme allocation by 11 percent for fiscal year 2023-24 over that of the previous fiscal.

He proposed allocating Tk 1,26,272 crore for FY24 whereas it was Tk 113,576 crore in FY23.

The recommended allocation is 16.58 percent of the total budget and 2.52 percent of the gross domestic product for FY24.

Besides, the government wants to roll out the universal pension scheme in the next fiscal year.

The Universal Pension Management Act, 2023 has already been passed and the Finance Minister on Thursday hoped to roll out the scheme from FY 2023-24.

On the other hand, the Finance Minister proposed increasing the tax-free income to Tk 3.5 lakh from the existing Tk 3 lakh for individual taxpayers for FY24.

Besides, Kamal has proposed a minimum Tk 2,000 tax on individuals who will file tax returns even if they do not have taxable income.

Meanwhile, the government has set a target to collect Tk 5,00,000 crore as revenue in the upcoming budget for FY24. Of the revenue collection target, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) will collect Tk 4,30,000 crore, up about 16.22 percent or around Tk 60,000 crore over that in the previous fiscal amounting to Tk 3,70,000 crore and another Tk 70,000 crore will be collected from other sources.

However, the budget deficit is Tk 2,61,991 crore, which is 5.2 percent of GDP.

Out of the total deficit, Tk 1,55,395 crore is proposed to be financed from domestic sources and Tk 1,02,490 crore from external sources.

On the other hand, the government proposed a Tk 2,77,582 crore Annual Development budget for the next fiscal year (FY24) making the highest allocation (27.3 percent of allocation) in the transport and communication sectors.

It was followed by education and technology (16.8 percent), local government and rural development (15.2 percent), energy and power (12.5 percent), public administration (7.2 percent), agriculture (5.9 percent), health (5.6 percent) and public order and security (3.2 percent) respectively.

The Finance Minister said that we need to maintain a robust rate of economic growth and thriving infrastructure, energy, power and information-technology sectors along with an uninterrupted supply chain to build a developed and smart Bangladesh.

We will also have to enhance human resource development by undertaking activities in the education and health sectors, he said, adding that we had to put emphasis on increasing agricultural production to ensure food security by undertaking activities like mechanisation, rehabilitation, research and innovation along with incentives and subsidies in the agricultural sector.

“We needed to lay emphasis on agro-processing and preservation as well. We have taken into consideration the increase in the prices of petroleum products, natural gas and fertilizers in the world market as well as the volatility in the exchange rate and so on,” he mentioned

He said we are expanding the targeted social protection programmes and distribution of food at a minimum price or free of cost to low-income segments of the population to mitigate the impact of import-induced inflation.

“In addition, we are considering, on a priority basis, housing and job creation for the homeless and rural development programmes to reduce poverty and build an egalitarian society. Above all, we are also giving priority to addressing climate change impacts to ensure long-term sustainable development,” he added.

Bearing in mind the outline of Smart Bangladesh, we are working out a strategy for transformation of Bangladesh at the behest of the Prime Minister to turn it into a developed nation, he mentioned.

“The Budget Speech is accompanied by the ‘Medium-Term Macroeconomic Policy Statement (MTMPS)’ containing the medium-term policy strategies. This policy statement elaborates our medium-term macroeconomic objectives, taking into account our prospects and challenges,” he said.

Earlier, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal presented the Tk 678,064 crore national budget for the fiscal year 2022-23, with the theme “Return to the Path of Development Leaving the Covid-19 Behind” to overcome the impact of coronavirus pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war on the economy. The revenue target was set at Tk4.33 lakh crore, while the budget deficit was Tk2.42 lakh crore or 5.4 percent of GDP.

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