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Budget implementation rate falling for lack of capacity of govt agencies

Economists tell post-budget press conference

| Updated: June 14, 2018 17:59:27

Internet photo used for illustrative purpose only Internet photo used for illustrative purpose only

The government should concentrate more on the implementation of the budget for the next fiscal year (FY) instead of just placing it in parliament.

Economists made the remark at a post-budget press conference organised by the Centre on Budget and Policy (CBP) under Dhaka University (DU) on its campus on Tuesday.

They said the rate of budget implementation has been falling over the last six years mainly due to lack of capacity of government agencies.

If the government doesn't take steps to build capacity of these agencies, full implementation of the proposed budget for FY 2018-19 will not be possible, they added.

Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman spoke as the chief guest and CBP director Dr Mohammed Abu Eusuf presented the keynote paper.

South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (SANEM) executive director Dr Selim Raihan, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) senior research fellow Dr Nazneen Ahmed, DU Economics Department chairman Prof Dr Shafique-uz Zaman, former head of international trade at Commonwealth Secretariat Dr MA Razzaque spoke at the event.

Prof Dr Taiabur Rahman of development studies department presided over the press conference.

In his keynote paper, Dr Eusuf said the budget deficit is a matter of concern, as the deficit would be met through borrowing from banks and selling savings certificates.

The target of domestic borrowing has been set at Tk 712.26 billion, out of total Tk 1.25 trillion deficit, in the proposed budget, he said.

"Such high amount of domestic borrowing is likely to limit the availability of funds for private investment."

He said the budget implementation rate came down to 79.12 per cent in FY 2016-17 from 93.18 per cent in FY 2011-12.

A sluggish growth was also observed in the implementation of annual development programme (ADP), said Dr Eusuf, also the chairman of Development Studies department of DU.

As the development work usually gets momentum in the last three months of a fiscal year, its quality declines, he said.

Dr Eusuf said the allocation for education and technology should be at least 6.0 per cent of the country's GDP.

But it is only 2.81 per cent in the proposed budget, he added.

He termed the proposed subsidy for the banking sector unreasonable.

"The proposed cut in corporate tax for the banks and the proposed subsidy will benefit only a 'specific group' as there is no sign of reduction in bank interest rates."

About the revenue collection target of the government, he said the expansion of income tax net is crucial for it.

SANEM executive director Dr Selim Raihan said the government has set a target to achieve the developed country status by 2041.

But before that, Bangladesh has to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, he added.

Bangladesh hasn't reached the highway to achieving SDGs, rather wandering in alleyways, he said.

"Policymakers need to come out of their comfort zones to achieve these goals."

Dr Raihan also said big projects should be completed within the stipulated time and affordable budget to do well in the development indicators.

He also said the government needs to reform the banking sector.

But it seems that the policymakers have stepped back from it in the upcoming budget considering the next national election, he added.

Dr Nazneen Ahmed said the proposed budget tried to maintain balance in all sectors.

She said corporate tax rate should be reduced for all sectors to encourage private sector investment.

Besides, corporate tax cut for the banking and insurance sectors is minimal and it will not bring notable advantage to the people, she added.

Dr MA Razzaque said there are many proposals of foreign investments and loans at lower interest rate in the pipeline, but the government can't manage the investment due to lack of capacity.

Instead, the government has been taking out loans at 10 to 11 per cent interest rate from the private sector to meet the budget deficit, he added.

He, however, said the outline of a universal pension scheme in the next budget is really admirable as it would provide safeguard to general people.

DU vice chancellor Dr Akhtaruzzaman said the government projects should focus on underprivileged people to ensure inclusive development.

It is very important to remove discrimination in society to achieve the SDGs, he added.



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