Planning Minister M A Mannan said on Thursday, for the first time, he is in favour of setting up an independent statistical commission in the country.
This has been a long-time demand by many, including local think-tanks, to generate quality data on the economy and the country, as the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS)-produced data spark many criticisms.
"I've no objection to setting up an independent statistical commission, as such institutions are in operation in many countries," the planning minister said while speaking as the chief guest of a budget discussion.
But this is a matter of the country's policymakers as to whether they would establish such an organisation or not.
He also said he has strengthened the BBS, which is a division under the Ministry of Planning.
"I have given them (the BBS people) full freedom," he noted.
The South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG) and the School of Business of the North South University (NSU) jointly organised the webinar - 'Economic growth during the Covid-19 pandemic: the role of the budget'.
M A Kasem, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and chairman of the NSU Board of Trustees, joined the programme as the special guest.
Distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Mustafizur Rahman, director of Economics Research Platform Dr Helal Ahammad, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Dr Nazneen Ahmed, advisor of SIPG Professor Dr Salauddin M Anisuzzaman, director of Centre on Budget and Policy of University of Dhaka Dr Abu Yousuf, and director of NSU Graduate Studies Dr Sharif Nurul Ahkam were panelists.
NSU vice chancellor Professor Dr Atiqul Islam presided over the function. Professor Dr Abdul Hannan Chowdhury moderated it.
Dr Mustafizur Rahman said the budget has two major challenges - the ongoing pandemic, and growing inequality in consumption, income and wealth.
He stressed the need for reforms for bringing efficiency in budget execution.
The CPD fellow said 15 per cent VAT on the educational institutions, which are by definition non-profit organisations, is illogical.
"Such types of fees will increase burden on the students' parents, who actually lost their real income in the pandemic. I think the government should re-examine the matter."
Dr Rahman also said the government should have given more emphasis on cash transfer to the people.
"Such cash transfer to the poor may boost aggregate demand in the economy," he added.
Dr. Nazneen Ahmed said the government proposed increased allocation for the Ministry of Health, but the proposal needs to be fully implemented.
"I think the budget is inadequate in a sense that the districts and upazilas will not get adequate support from the allocations."
"We need to vaccinate all the people, at least 50 per cent of the population. Otherwise all efforts will be in vain."
Ms Ahmed opined that the government should have allocated more funds for start-ups and new entrepreneurs for the interest of the economy.
"I think the budget allocation for the start-ups and entrepreneurs of e-commerce is meagre," she mentioned.
Dr Abu Yousuf said the budget has no reflection of the 8th five-year plan.
As per the Keynesian economic model, cash transfer may boost the aggregate demand, and it ultimately stimulates the economy by increasing output and employment.
He further said there are 23 stimulus packages, announced by the government, but not a single one for the education sector.
"We're talking about an allocation of 2.0 per cent of the GDP for education in the 8th five-year plan, but this is ignored in the budget," he mentioned.
Dr Salauddin M. Anisuzzaman opined that Bangladesh's bureaucracy is not proactive.
Dr Helal Ahammad said borrowing from the central bank creates money supply in the market, resulting in higher inflation in the economy.