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Church leaders, economists slam 'unfair' Bangladesh budget

Budget for the next fiscal year fails to help poor and marginalized groups, they claim

Economists and vhurch officials say the 2022-23 budget will not benefit low-income people

Economists and vhurch officials say the 2022-23 budget will not benefit low-income people. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

Published: June 20, 2022 04:36 AM GMT

Updated: June 20, 2022 05:10 AM GMT

Catholic officials and economists say Bangladesh's proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year fails to give comfort to the poor, jobless and low-income groups.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a Bangladeshi think tank, held a Budget Dialogue 2022 meeting on June 16 in the capital Dhaka that gathered economists, politicians, entrepreneurs and senior officials of NGOs. The consensus was that the budget was not poor-friendly and will encourage capital flight.

Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the CPD, said the fiscal and monetary measures taken to protect the poor and low-income groups are inadequate.

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“There was an opportunity to lessen the burden of higher prices through a cut in duties on imported items and lowering taxes. The government should also have raised the tax-free income limit from the current level," Khatun told the meeting.

Former commerce minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said. “The government has continued to raise the budget for government officials, but the poor and lower-income groups have remained ignored.” 

Finance minister Mustafa Kamal has proposed a 6.78-trillion-taka (US$76.18 billion) budget for 2022-23.

"We live in a rural area, so we see the economic hardship of the people. They don't understand the budget but they are saying that they cannot afford three meals a day"

He placed the budget, titled “Return to the Path of Development; Leaving Covid-19 Behind,” before parliament on June 9. The government projects economic growth of 7.5 percent in the budget. Bangladesh is targeting an average inflation rate of 5.6 percent in the next fiscal year.

In the new budget, the allocation for the social security sector has increased to 1,135 billion taka, representing 2.55 percent of GDP.

At present over 5.7 million elderly people, widows and physically challenged people receive an allowance of 500 taka per month. The new budget has allocated 34.44 billion taka for this sector.

“The budget is never poor-friendly, only the rich people benefit from the budget,” Father Anthony Sen, secretary of the peace and justice commission of Dinajpur Diocese, told UCA News.

“There is no allocation in the budget to address the rising prices of essentials. We live in a rural area, so we see the economic hardship of the people. They don't understand the budget but they are saying that they cannot afford three meals a day.

“If the budget was poor-friendly, commodity prices should be lower, farmers' production would increase and the unemployed would get jobs.”

In June 2021, the CPD reported that the number of poor people had increased to 35 percent due to declining incomes in the pandemic.

The International Labour Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2022 forecast that 5 percent of Bangladesh’s total workforce would remain unemployed this year — 0.6 percentage points higher than the pre-pandemic level of 4.4 percent in 2019.

Sukleash George Costa, Caritas Bangladesh's Rajshahi regional director, said the budget does not reflect the needs of the poor.

“The price of goods has been increased in the budget. The prices of some goods like computers and motorbikes have been reduced but these are not for the poor. The government should have looked into the fact that now it is difficult for poor people to survive on two meals a day. The 500-taka monthly allowance for widows, the elderly and the disabled only covers two meals a day, so it is important to increase it,” he said.

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