The Finance Minister Mr AHM Mostafa Kamal presented a budget of over six trillion Taka before the National Parliament last Thursday. Being the biggest ever in history, the budget can take pride on a number of issues, like increased allocation for the health sector, social safety net, poverty alleviation and job creation. Besides, increase of allowances for the freedom fighters, in fulfilment of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's earlier pledge, would be praised by all. The social safety net has been expanded and admirably a host of agricultural items and raw materials will have a rebate on tax. Overall, the budget has been pro-growth in the period of the pandemic, with of course a slant for the businessmen, as the critics would like to say, and not so much a friendly one for the middleclass, who reportedly appear to have been downhearted. Though the overall opinion on the budget is a positive one, it would take time before ultimate judgement on it can be passed. Nonetheless, almost every ministry has seen allocation go up, except for the ever cornered and neglected sports sector adding as if to the age-old adage that it is only a matter of game, and nothing more.
Indeed, it seems ironic that a record-making budget in terms of amount has provided less money for sports, with the Finance Minister having a reputation for being great sports enthusiast, and being himself a sports organiser also. The drop in the total amount by about fifty-seven million Taka may not seem to be too much, but it sends a painful message. It is not new that sports have got a demoted role in the complex echelons of statecraft. While people of all walks of life turn on the sports channel of television or open sports page of newspapers first, very few among the policy makers give serious thinking as to how this engaging item of life can be upgraded in line with international standards. The budget-makers would like to point out that development allocation has been increased for sports, but only just, and an introspection would reveal that all the money is for physical infrastructure, which would take years to mature. What is more agonising is that there is not a single project that would work towards raising the standard of a single sport, let alone all of them. The idea of creation of mini stadiums in all upazillas after the name of Sheikh Russel, the youngest martyr of the 15th August, 1975 mayhem, is a welcome step for creating sports facilities at the grassroots level.
However, the implementers must keep in mind that these facilities must be user-friendly and loveable constructions and not left to rot after completion. Proper use must be ensured with parallel projects for sportsmen eager to use the facilities. The previous experience with improvised swimming pools is not a pleasant one, with many of them now being used to bathe cattle heads. Apart from its physical benefits, sports bring people together, help in keeping the youth away from anti-social activities and in building nationhood. Policy makers must calculate all these benefits while allocating money for sports and passing its development portfolio. The Planning Minister Mr M.A. Mannan has recently said that proper planning is needed for a good budget. He is also a sports enthusiast. People would expect that given such a helpful situation existing in terms of eager people, projects must come up for raising the standard of sportsmen also. Only brick and cement works would not improve sports. The people for whom these are done must be targeted first.