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Bangladesh becomes victim of int’l politics over vaccine, allege BNP lawmakers

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Lawmakers from Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Sunday alleged that the government has mismanaged the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and containment of the virus.

The allegation was made by Md Harunur Rashid (Chapainawabganj-3) and Rummen Farhana (Women Seat-50) as they spoke in the House on a supplementary budget of fiscal 2020-21.

 “Bangladesh is a victim of international politics over the coronavirus vaccine. So, it is uncertain how to get vaccines from China,” said Harun.

He said China and Russia earlier wanted to conduct trials of their vaccines in Bangladesh. But the government made wrong decisions at that time.

 “If we had allowed them for trial, now we would have got vaccines. Bangladesh didn’t allow them,” he said.

He said the supplementary budget has also remained unimplemented. The government couldn’t place the budget which was required to face the pandemic last year as well, he claimed.

Public sufferings went up due to the government’s wrong policy and decisions in the health sector, he said citing an example that the lockdown was enforced in the entire country since last Ramadan, but the government could not control mass exodus during the Eid holidays.

 “People faced huge sufferings during the Eid. Where a person could go to Rajshahi from Dhaka with Tk 500 transport fare, maintaining social distance, the person had to spend Tk 3,000-Tk 4,000 to go there,” he said.

The BNP MP said the ferries carried huge people from Mawa ghat, (not maintaining social distance). So, the infection rate went up, he said, adding that the Delta variant virus spread throughout the country now.

Besides, 40-50 people were killed in accidents during illegal movement through speedboats. “Aren’t these failures or incapacities of the government? Won’t the government shoulder the responsibility of these?” he said.

Noting that that proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year is dependent on massive foreign debts and domestic loans, he said such a budget was not placed during any government in the last 50 years.

 “Though the minister (Finance Minister) placed the budget, he couldn’t give any specific guideline over vaccines,” he said, mentioning that the government has yet to bring even 2 per cent of people under vaccination coverage though almost one and a half year elapsed after the detection of the virus in the country.

Harun demanded of the government to specify how much additional fund is being given for the health ministry in the budget to face the coronavirus.

Terming the Health Ministry ‘depot of corruption,’ he said the allocation given to the ministry in the last one year has not been used in checking the Covid-19 properly. 

The BNP lawmaker demanded setting up a corona unit with at least 100 beds in the hospital in Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi and Naogaon and other districts where the Covid infection rate is high. Otherwise, people will die on roads not getting treatment.

About the imposition of VAT on private universities in the proposed budget, Harun demanded the withdrawal of the VAT saying that now a larger number of students are studying in the private universities.

Joining the discussion, Rumeen Farhana said the allocation for the health sector was lowest in Bangladesh among the South Asian countries. In the last budget, the allocation was only 0.9 per cent of GDP, though it should be at least 5 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation.

Even whatever fund was allocated could not be spent on good purposes,  she said questioning the government’s seriousness to deal with the coronavirus.

 “Still there is no ICU in the government hospitals in the country’s 42 districts despite the Prime Minister’s repeated directives (to set up ICU),” said Rumeen.

About the Covid-19 vaccine, she said the Serum Institute of India provided only 7 million vaccines to Bangladesh despite it was paid to supply 30 million vaccines in six months. BEXIMCO has already made a profit of Tk 380 million, she added.

She said the government could not go to alternative sources to get vaccines due to alleged pressure from BEXIMCO, though Russia and China wanted to sign agreements with Bangladesh according to the remarks of the Foreign Minister. 

 “During this pandemic, mismanagement has been evident over vaccines from the beginning,” said Rumeen.

About the supplementary budget, she said though allocation for 19 ministries went high, the ADP implementation rate is only 49 per cent in the first 10 months of the outgoing fiscal year.

 “Though the allocation for the health services division also rose, it could spend only 25 per cent of the allocation in the same period, which is the lowest in the last 10 year,” she said.

Referring to some reports of Prothom Alo’s journalist Rozina Islam over irregularities in the health sector, she questioned what action was taken against those who harassed the journalist for six hours.

The BNP MP demanded the withdrawal of a case filed against the journalist for the sake of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

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