Overhaul budget system: Speakers

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Dhaka, June 21: Speakers at a roundtable on Friday called for an urgent and complete overhaul of the budget system to attain the nation’s desired goal in line with spirit of the Liberation War.They said there is a “serious lack of democratic practice and accountability” in the process of formulating and passing the national budget, UNB reports.

Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan), a civil society platform working to ensure good governance, arranged the discussion on the proposed national budget at the Jatiya Press Club.

Noted economist and Dhaka University Professor Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir presented the keynote paper.

He said the 48th national budget was placed in parliament amid instability in macro economy.

“GDP is growing rapidly as per the government’s statistics. But the government report is also saying that inequality is growing alarmingly while the GDP growth has failed to create employment,” he noted.

Rashed, also the Chairperson of the Unnayan Onneshan, said the people have questions about the budget plan, implementation process, sector-based allocation and problem identification.

“Expenditure is higher than revenue generation while spending in unproductive sector is much higher. The amount of loan is increasing gradually as the budgets are framed with huge deficit every year,” he observed.

The DU Professor said sectors like education, health and agriculture are the most neglected ones in budget allocation.

After the budget is placed in the House, he said it is amended through a bureaucratic method.

“The amended budget is passed without any discussion as soon as it is placed in parliament. The MPs have no power apart from passing the budget through voice vote, demonstrating a serious lack of accountability and democratic practice in the whole procedure,” he said.

Shujan President M Hafizuddin said the three main pillars of the Liberation War – equality, human dignity and justice – should be considered as the key principles for making financial policy. “Otherwise, the nation will be unable to reach its desired goal.”

He said the Finance Minister did not take any step in the budget to resolve the farmers’ problems and provide them with subsidy when they were not getting fair prices of paddy.

Mentioning that the Finance Minister is one of the 10 richest men in the country, he questioned how he will realise the sufferings of the poor.

Jahangirnagar University Professor Dr Anu Muhammad underscored the need for proper implementation of the budget instead focusing on its size.

“There’s a lack of accountability in budget. The government shows interest only in large projects while money is not released for the implementation of small-scale projects,” he added.

Shujan Secretary Dr Badiul Alam Mazumder said good governance and accountability should be ensured in implementation of the budget.

He also said a structural change should be made in formulating the budget to make it pro-people one.