Full text of finan minister's budget speech

National Budget 2022-23 Page One

Published : 10 Jun 2022 01:03 AM | Updated : 10 Jun 2022 01:32 AM

Madam Speaker

37. We will continue the initiatives taken to address COVID-19 and economic recovery in the coming fiscal year. However, as the context of the crisis changes, so will our priorities. In the first year of the crisis, our priorities were to build the health sector’s capacity, provide food and humanitarian assistance to the low-income people who have suddenly become unemployed, and provide urgent assistance to sustain production and employment in key economic sectors such as the agriculture and the exports. We successfully tackled the challenges of the first year through the rapid expansion of specialised COVID treatment in government management, recruitment of additional physicians and health workers, and humanitarian assistance activities for low-income people. In the second year, after the initial shock, our priority was shifted to bring everyone under the COVID vaccine and support the industry and services sector to ensure economic recovery at a faster pace. We successfully achieved the target in the second year by bringing almost all citizens above 12 years of age under the vaccination programme and successfully implementing incentive packages for the industry and services sectors. Now, in the third year of the pandemic, our priority will be to sustain the economic recovery by maintaining the trend of income generation and job creation and thus put the economy on a solid foundation. Therefore, we will continue to implement incentive programmes in the next fiscal year. At the same time, we will provide all kinds of policy support to all the important sectors of the economy including banks, financial institutions, and business enterprises in the industrial and service sectors so that they can fully overcome the effects of pandemic. I would like to apprise the nation through you that the next fiscal year will be our last year to overcome the effects of pandemic.

Chapter Four

Global Crisis and Challenges for Bangladesh

Madam Speaker

38. While the global economy was recovering from the last two years’ unanticipated impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict that began with the Russian military operation on 24 February 2022 has started creating various adverse effects on the global economy. Since the end of 2021 with post-COVID induced rising demand, the commodity prices soared in the international markets and now the Russia-Ukraine conflict is further pushing up further the commodity prices. Recently, the price of crude oil per barrel has crossed US$113. On the other hand, the price of natural gas has escalated twelve folds in the international market. Besides, oil and natural gas, Russia and Ukraine are the suppliers of several products in the global commodity market, such as wheat, maize, sunflower oil, and rare earth minerals. As a result, there is price escalation of these commodities in the international market. Export to and import from Russia are also squeezed due to the imposition of sanctions and disconnecting Russia from the international payment network SWIFT by the Western Countries, which disrupted the world supply chain. Indeed, the Russia-Ukraine crisis which is likely to prolong shall obstruct the post-COVID recovery of the world economy.

39. The global price of food and fuel is rising due to Russia-Ukraine conflict. Compared to May 2021, in May 2022 there has been 65 percent increase in fuel price, 114 percent increase in the price of urea fertilizer, 29 percent increase in soybean oil price, 85 percent increase in wheat price and 13 percent increase in sugar price. Due to these price escalations, several international research organisations forecasted global inflation. Based on data released by FAO, the worldwide price of agricultural and food commodities increased in 2021, which may continue to rise in 2022. The World Economic Outlook of the International Monetary Fund published in April 2022 forecasted 5.7 percent CPI inflation in the developed economies in 2022, which was 3.1 percent in 2021. Among these economies, inflation in the USA would be 7.7 percent in 2022. On the other hand, inflation in the emerging and developing economies which was 5.9 percent in 2021, is expected to rise to 8.7 percent in 2022.

40. Given the above context, there are two major challenges for Bangladesh. Usual price hikes in the international market and secondly, controlling imported inflation in the local market originating from the price hike in the international market. It is to be noted that importing the same volume of nine essential commodities for Bangladesh (crude oil and refined oil, LNG, wheat, fertilizer, palm oil, coal, soybean oil, maize and rice) would cost an additional US$ 8.2 billion in 2022 in comparison to 2021 due to price hike. Besides commodity prices, prices of industrial raw materials, other consumer goods prices, and the cost of international transportation are also rising. Consequently, there is a pressure of imported inflation in the local market.

Madam Speaker

41. In these circumstances, there ispressure on subsidy/incentives management by the government. In the budget for FY2021-2022, the allocation for subsidy and incentive expenditure was Tk. 53,852 crore. But due to the rise in prices of fuel and fertilizer in the international market, the government had to increase subsidy/incentives expenditure on fuel, electricity, gas, and fertilizer. As a result, the estimates of subsidy and incentives expenditure on the revised budget of FY2021-2022 had to be increased to Tk. 66,825 crore (1.70 percent of GDP). This expenditure has been increased to Tk. 82,745 crore (1.90 percent of GDP) in the initial estimate of the budget for FY2022-2023. However, considering the price trend of oil, gas, and fertilizer in the international market, the estimated subsidy/incentives spending can be 15-20 percent higher than the initial estimates, which may pose a challenge in the budget management for the next fiscal year.

42. Despite the COVID pandemic, during FY2020-2021, remittance earning was impressive. Due to the sluggish economic recovery in our major overseas labour markets because of the COVID pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, there has been a stagnation in remittance earning in the current fiscal year. On the other hand, with the speedy economic recovery from the COVID pandemic situation in Bangladesh, import volume has increased at a record high level. Consequently, during the July-April period of the current fiscal year, the current account deficit stood at US$ 15.3 billion. Related to that, there has been a stress on the exchange rate originating from the increased demand for US$ in the local market. To manage this crisis, Bangladesh Bank released US$ 6.08 billion up to 1 June 2022 in the local foreign exchange market. In October 2021, the amount of foreign exchange reserve was US$ 48 billion, which has now declined to US$ 42 billion. Besides, Taka is being depreciated against US dollar, and since July 1 of current fiscal year to 6 June 2022, Taka depreciated against US$ by around 7.9 percent. So, along with containing inflation, maintaining imports at a reasonable volume and keeping foreign reserves stable would be a great challenge for us.

43. The Government wants to contain inflation, increase employment and address other macroeconomic challenges by increasing supply while reducing the growth in demand. To recover from the sluggish growth of the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has taken several countercyclical measures for enhancing industrial production and boosting the export sector namely, the creation of a special fund of Tk. 5 thousand crore for paying wages and salaries of the employees in the export-oriented industries, a fund of Tk. 73 thousand crore for affected large industrial and service sector enterprises, a fund amounting Tk. 40 thousand crore for lending against working capital for the CMSMEs, enhancement of Export Development Fund from US$ 3.5 billion to US$ 6 billion and subsidizing the interest beyond 2 percent and a pre-shipment credit refinancing project of Tk. 5 thousand crore. Moreover, the government has taken several initiatives for enhancing export through enhancement of the capacity of the export-oriented industries, diversification of export products through research and development, exploration of new markets for exporting commodities, development of transportation and utility facilities, and initiatives of signing bi-lateral and multi-lateral preferential and free trade agreements (PTAs and FTAs). Above all, for enhancing export, the government has created several economic zones and continues to provide export subsidies/ incentives.

44. The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh on behalf of the government is selling essential goods to low-income people at a lower price. In urban areas, rice and wheat are being sold under the OMS programme. During Ramadan, six essential products have been supplied at lower prices to 10 million households through the card system. Besides, a significant portion of poor people has been brought under the social safety net to whom the government has the capacity to send cash digitally. The Government is taking stern action against hoarders of commodities through the Directorate of National Consumers Rights Protection and through mobile court operations by the District Administration. Besides, we are committed not to increase the price at the consumer level to fully cover the subsidy required by the government on the fuel, natural gas, fertilizer, and electricity sector due to price increases in the international market.

Madam Speaker

45. As in previous years, I have consulted with top business organisations, reputed economists, and media personalities as part of budget preparation for the FY2022-2023. Besides, I gathered suggestions on the budget from the Ministries/Divisions and different organisations. I convey my gratitude to all of them for their support. Based on these discussions, proposals and our analysis, the major challenges for the next fiscal year would be: 1) containing inflation and enhancing domestic investment; 2) financing additional subsidy required for the increased price of gas, power and fertilizer in international markets; 3) utilizing funds available through foreign assistance and ensuring timely completion of high priority projects of ministries/divisions; 4) ensuring timely completion of projects in education and health sectors; 5) increasing collection of local Value Added Tax and raising the number of individual tax-payers and 6) maintaining stability in the exchange rate of taka and keeping foreign exchange reserves at a comfortable level.

46 We have to be very pragmatic in addressing these challenges as any failure to address them properly may destabilize the macroeconomic stability. Our major strategy would be to enhance the supply while reducing the growth in demand. Therefore, import-dependent and less important government expenditures will be stopped or reduced. The pace of implementation of the low-priority projects will be lowered while enhancing the implementation of high and medium priority projects. The sales price of fossil fuel, gas, electricity and chemical fertilizers will be adjusted gradually and on a small scale. The automation process regarding tax collection will be expedited with a view to gearingup revenue mobilization activities and VAT and income tax coverage will be expanded. Import of luxury and dispensable goods will be restrained and under/over-invoicing will be cautiously monitored. The exchange rate of Taka against the US dollarwill be kept competitive.

47. The resilience of our economy depends on the strength of bouncing back by the communities combined with bold and courageous leadership. The priority of this year’s budget would be to improve the livelihood of people at all levels, continue with uninterrupted economic development and employment generation, and contain inflation in parallel to addressing economic effects originated from COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As we had brought back our economy into the mainstream by overcoming the Corona pandemic under the dynamic leadership of our Hon’ble Prime Minister, we will also be able to return to the path of development in the next fiscal year by effectively addressing the adverse situation arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Chapter Five

The Supplementary Budget for the FY2021-2022

Madam Speaker

48. At this stage, I am going to focus on the Supplementary Budget for the current FY2021-2022 and the proposed Budget Framework for the FY2022-2023.

The Supplementary Budget for the current FY2021-2022

Madam Speaker

49. Considering the progress of overall revenue collection and expenditure, some revisions and adjustments have been made in the budget of FY2021-2022, a brief description of which is presented in Appendix ‘A’: Table-4.

50. Revised Revenue Income: The growth of the revenue collection till March 2022 of the current fiscal year is 19.43 percent. Considering this satisfactory growth of revenue collection, it has been proposed to keep the target of revenue collection in the supplementary budget of FY2021-2022 equal to the original budget i.e., Tk.3,89,000 crore. It is to be noted that this is for the first time that the revenue collection target has not been reduced in the supplementary budget.

51. Revised Expenditure: In the budget of the current fiscal year, the total government expenditure was estimated at Tk. 6,03,681 crore. But considering the overall progress of the expenditure till April, it is proposed to reduce the government expenditure by Tk. 10,181 crore and set it at Tk. 5,93,500 crore in the revised budget.

52. Revised budget deficit and its financing: The budget deficit for the current fiscal year was estimated at Tk. 2,14,682 crore.The deficit in the revised budget is proposed at Tk. 2,04,500 crore, which is 5.1 percent of GDP. It is worthy of note that the deficit in the original budget was 6.2 percent of GDP. This deficit will be financed from both domestic and foreign sources.

Chapter Six

Proposed Budget Structure of FY2022 2023

Madam Speaker

53. Bangladesh economy has turned around overcoming the shocks of COVID-19. The economy is moving forward to its desired direction thanks to different initiatives taken by the government and the firm resilience of our people. However, at least three important issues have been carefully considered in preparing the budget structure for the next year. We have been working on ways to deal with the direct and indirect negative effects of the second wave of the corona pandemic in different parts of the world that are posing challenges on various sectors of our economy. We have also crafted strategies for the coming days considering the potential economic risks posed by the Russian-Ukraine conflict. Besides, the likelihood of the occurrence of ‘imported inflation’ due to the rise in global prices of all major imported commodities including petroleum oil, and the disruption in the supply chain worldwide has also been carefully considered. Meeting the public demand, satisfying the needs created in the health sector and bringing the population under the vaccine coverage have also been considered.

54. On the whole, the budget of FY2022-2023 has been prepared keeping in mind the recovery of our economy from the economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, implementation of the incentive packages provided by Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, timely implementation of priority projects, expansion of social safety nets, ensuring education and training, creation of massive employment, providing agricultural subsidies, and above all sustaining the economic development of the country.

Madam Speaker

55. I am now presenting an outline of the proposed income and expenditure for the next fiscal year 2022-2023 which has been detailed out in Appendix ‘A’: Table 5.

56. In revenue collection, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) accounts for the major share. Therefore, over the last 13 years of this government, a number of reform initiatives have been taken to augment revenue collection. As a result, government revenue collection has increased significantly. Whereas, the NBR tax collection in FY2008-2009 was Tk. 52,527 crore, the amount has increased to Tk. 2,59,882 crore in FY2020-2021. Though the new VAT law has been implemented since July 2019, its initial hiccup and Corona virus-induced shocks have contributed to slow increase in revenue collection. For that reason, we have started installing Electronic Fiscal Devices in business firms in order to increase VAT collection.

57. The number of population belonging to the middle class and above is about 40 million in our country, but most of them are not paying income tax. Hence, necessary steps are being taken to prevent tax evasions and to bring all the people who have taxable incomes under the tax net. We are working with the aim of increasing the number of TIN holders to 10 million, and in the last four years, the number of TIN holders has increased on average more than 1 million a year. By April 2022, we have been able to raise the number of TIN holders to 75.10 lakh. At the same time, by March 2022, the number of tax returns has increased to 29 lakh. We are working on simplifying tax return to make it easily understandable, and in one page for individual tax-payers. Apart from that, return submission will be made mandatory for everyone except a few cases.

58. In the previous budget, we declared our aim for launching “Made in Bangladesh” brand for the sake of development of heavy industry and accelerating import substituting industrial production, and for its implementation took various measures to reform tax regime. We are proposing several steps to be taken in the next budget which encourage the production of those goods in the country that can be produced domestically and discourage their imports.

59. Proposed Revenue Income: The total revenue earnings for the fiscal year 2022-2023 has been estimated at Tk. 4,33,000 crore. Of this, NBR will collect Tk. 3,70,000 crore and another Tk. 63,000 crore will be collected from other sources.

60. Proposed Expenditure: For the next FY2022-2023, the total size of the expenditure budget has been estimated at Tk. 6,78,064 crore, which is 15.2 percent of GDP. For the operating and other expenditures an allocation of Tk. 4,31,998 crore, while for annual development programme an allocation of Tk. 2,46,066 crore has been proposed.

61. Budget Deficit and Financing: The overall budget deficit for the proposed budget will be Tk. 2,45,064 crore which is 5.5 percent of GDP. It is to be noted that in the last budget the deficit was 6.2 percent of GDP. The deficit will be financed from domestic and external sources.

Madam Speaker

62. Overall Expenditure Framework: I will now present the overall expenditure framework (operating and development) of the proposed budget. In accordance with the allocation of business of different ministries and divisions, government activities are categorised into three major sectors namely: social infrastructure, physical infrastructure and general services.

63. In the proposed budget, the allocation for the social infrastructure is Tk. 1,83,425 crore which is 27.05 percent of the total allocation; out of this, allocation for the human resources sector (education, health and other related sectors) is Tk. 1,67,524 crore. For the physical infrastructure sector an allocation of Tk. 2,00,860 crore has been proposed which is 29.62 percent of the total allocation. Out of this Tk. 86,798 crorewill go to overall agriculture and rural development sub-sector, Tk.79,026 crore will go to the communication infrastructure sub-sector, and Tk. 26,065 croreallocation has been proposed for power and energy sub-sector. An allocation of Tk. 1,53,208 crorehas been proposed for general services sector which is 22.59 percent of the total allocation. For public-private partnership (PPP), financial assistance to different industries, subsidies, equity investments in state-owned, commercial and financial institutions, a total of Tk. 53,155 crorehas been proposed which is 7.84 percent of the total allocation. An allocation of Tk. 80,375 crorehas been allocated for the payments of interest; which is 11.85 percent of the total allocation. For net lending and other expenses, Tk. 7,041 crorehas been proposed which is 1.04 percent of the total allocation. Detailed information about the allocations has been presented in Table 7 of Appendix ‘A’ and Ministry/Division wise proposed budgetallocations have been provided in Table 8 of Appendix ‘A’.

Chapter Seven

Sector-wise Policies, Action Plans, and Resource Management

A. Sector-wise Policies

Madam Speaker

64. Now, I would like to present a brief description of our important policies, strategies, action plans and budget allocations for the medium term, including the next fiscal year. Through this budget, we will strive to address the lagged effects of the COVID-19 as well as to implement the promises made in our Election Manifesto 2018 and the goals set out in the Eighth Five Year Plan, and the Second Perspective Plan (2021-2041) and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are nearing completion of the second year of the Eighth Five Year Plan. It is encouraging to note that the economic activities have started running in full swing as the intensity of the coronavirus infection began to recede. However, the excess global demand, supply chain disruption, inflationary pressures and food and energy price shock due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis have emerged as new challenges. We have duly factored in those challenges in preparing the budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Medium-Term Policy-Strategy

65. In the medium term, our policies and strategies are consistent with the country’s five-year plan and perspective plan. This year’s budget will focus on poverty alleviation and inclusive growth to ensure equity and fairness in society. Highest emphasis will be given to containing inflation. Emphasis will also be given to inclusive growth, poverty reduction and job creation. Therefore, labor-intensive and export-oriented production will be encouraged. Credit and other facilities will continue to be provided to the cottage, micro, small and medium industries. In addition, agricultural diversification and ICT-dependent initiatives will be given priority. Besides, the process of creating skilled manpower for foreign employment will continue. With these initiatives, we will be able to further generate employment elasticity of GDP, which will ultimately contribute to the reduction of income inequality.

66. Strong domestic and external demand will be the main driving force of our growth in the medium term. Consumption and investment to increase the domestic demand and exports to increase the external demand will be one of our areas to focus on. Our goal will be to build improved communications, necessary infrastructure and ensure power and energy security through increased public, private and foreign investment. The focus will also be on increasing the productivity of labor to increase export competitiveness. On the supply side, our goal is to accelerate the growth of the industry and service sector to achieve high GDP growth and employment. I am hopeful that this goal will be achieved through the speedy implementation of the establishment of economic zones. In order to create skilled manpower, vocational and technical education will be expanded. Emphasis will continue to be given to building skilled manpower and exploring new labor markets to increase remittance income.

67. Only in the fiscal year 2019-2020, our economic growth was hampered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the new base year, a record 7.88 percent growth was achieved in FY2018-2019, but in the following year, FY2019-2020, it decreased to 3.45 percent due to the pandemic. However, we were able to begin the process of economic recovery very quickly under the guidance of Hon’ble Prime Minister. As a result, 6.94 percent growth has been achieved in FY2020-2021 despite the continued impact of COVID-19. It appears from the economic variables that indicate that the second wave of COVID-19 continued in the first quarter of the current financial year but did not have a significant negative impact on the economy. Considering overall perspective, this fiscal year’s GDP growth is forecasted at 7.25 percent. At the same time, the growth rate has been targeted to be 7.5 percent for the next FY2022-2023, considering the lagged effects of the COVID-19 and the protracted crisis arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Madam Speaker

68. Over the past two years, we prepared our budget focusing on protecting the lives and livelihoods of the citizens during the pandemic. As a result of this timely and far-sighted decision of the government, the economy of Bangladesh has been able to turn around faster than most other countries of the world. Vaccination has been expedited by additional allocation in the health sector. Although the global growth was almost stagnant or negative due to the COVID-19, the positive growth in Bangladesh has been appreciated all over the world thanks to the appropriate steps by the government. The per capita GNI stood at USD 2,824 in FY2021-2022. Moreover, Bangladesh has already become a role model for its achievement in alleviating poverty and bringing about positive changes in social and economic indicators. The report titled ‘Global Economic Prospects’ published by the World Bank in January 2022 states that Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world to achieve high growth by overcoming the global recession.

69. Under the strong and sagacious leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, long-term and sustainable development plans are being adopted in all sectors, of the economy including industrial infrastructure and social sectors. To alleviate poverty, the government is providing special allocations in ADP for education, health and infrastructure development. Priority has been given in areas like social security programmes and widening the coverage of beneficiaries, flood control, irrigation facilities, removal of waterlogging and salinity problems in the backward districts while adopting the government investment programmes under the Delta Plan, establishment of effective Char development boards to address the plight of the people of Char areas, support the growth of non-agricultural rural enterprises through various programmes including provision of easily available credit, technology and marketing facilities etc. Besides, special skills training is being provided to the youths, along with necessary overseas employment information and credit facility, in districts that are lagging behind in overseas employment.

70. In preparing the budget for the next fiscal year, top priority has been given to containing inflation stemming from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020 and the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Agriculture is our second highest priority sector because of its importance in ensuring food security. Our priority in agriculture research and expansion service, farm mechanization, irrigation and seed, agricultural subsidies including fertilizer subsidy will continue in the next fiscal year to accelerate the progress that has been made in the agricultural sector over the past few years. Our third priority sector is human resource development including health, education and skills development. We will continue to allocate for the development of human resources including health, education and skills development with a view to building a better Bangladesh by 2041. The fourth priority is to boost domestic investment, increase exports and promote export diversification. Our fifth priority sector is job creation and rural development. In addition, tackling the effects of climate change will be one of our priorities. Committed to always standing by low-income people, this government will continue to expand its coverage of social security. We have plans to distribute low-cost and even free food to low-income people. The successful implementation of the incentive package announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the forthcoming budget will be considered as one of the priority areas of our government.

71. Like every year, this budget speech has been accompanied by a ‘Medium Term Macroeconomic Policy Statement’ containing our medium-term policy strategy.

72. In the next section, I will highlight the sector-wise specific action plans of the proposed budget.

B. Action Plans and Resource Allocation

Containing Inflation

Madam Speaker

73. The government is committed to contain the rising trend of inflation by addressing inconsistencies between supply and demand. Although it remained under control until the first quarter of this year, there has been a recent spike, mainly due to external and some internal factors. The causes of inflation at the global level include, among others, rising inflation in trade partners, rising oil prices, depreciation of Taka against USD, disruption of the global supply chain and the Russia-Ukraine crisis - all of which are largely beyond our control. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) made a forecast that the average inflation rate in the United States and the United Kingdom will be 7.68 percent and 7.41 percent respectively in 2022. Internal factors include the post-COVID-19 economic recovery, which is leading the economy to full employment. The government is, so far, refrained from adjusting domestic prices of the chemical fertilizer, gas, and power to control inflation and is providing additional subsidies. Bangladesh Bank is increasing the supply of US$ to the foreign exchange market so that the value of Taka against the US$ does not depreciate further. We have introduced sales through TCB so that the low-income people of the country can buy daily necessities at lower prices. In addition, a significant portion of the poor has been brought under the social security programmes. Action is being taken against the hoarders by commissioning mobile courts run by Directorate of National Consumer Right Protection and District Administration. We have earlier discussed the measures we will take in the coming budget to contain inflation. Considering all these measures, I expect that the average inflation will be 5.6 percent in the next fiscal year.

74. Our main strategy for the next fiscal year would be toincrease the supply while reducing the growth in demand. We have carefully designed the budget proposals for subsidies, incentives and sector-wise allocation for the next FY2022-2023 keeping in mind our core policy objective of containing the inflation and achieving the targeted economic growth. Now, I will present the sector-wise specific allocation plans before this august House.

Continuation of Stimulus Programmes

Madam Speaker

75. As a consequence of various efforts of the government, the economy is returning to normalcy overcoming the effects of the pandemic. Stimulus programmes will continue in the coming fiscal year to further accelerate the pace of development by speeding up the recovery process and bringing the economy back to its pre-pandemic state. While the adversities arising from the Covid pandemic have eased up, a new crisis has emerged from of Russia-Ukraine conflict. We have seriously considered this evolving crisis in determining the priority areas of the government in the forthcoming budget. Special emphasis has been given in the budget on the implementation of various programmes to generate employment in the industrial sector, CMSME, service sector and rural informal sector and employment for the returnee migrant workers. At the same time, the implementation of the stimulus packages announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister will continue to offset the loses of the affected enterprises,keep the economy afloat and help the temporarily jobless workers during pandemic.In addition, the programmes that the government has adopted with a focus on increasing the coverage of social security, housing for the homeless poor and distributing free or low-cost food among low-income people will continue.

76. One of the priorities of the government is to provide emergency financial assistance to the low-income people who become jobless or their income is reduced due to natural disasters like floods, flash-floods, storm surges, hail storms,In 2014, we prepared short-term, medium-term and long-term plan of action to develop the blue economy and harness the potentials of marine resources. Recently, we have updated the action plans (2018 to 2030) in line with SDGs declared by the United Nations and have started implementing them. Through the joint efforts with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN), we have prepared a ‘National Plan of Action’ to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal and unregulated fishing. As of February 2022, the fish research and survey vessel ‘RV MeenSandhani’ has so far conducted 35 survey cruises. The government has also taken up a project called ‘‘Pilot Project on Tuna and Similar Pelagic Fishing in the Deep Sea”. I am confident that this will open a new horizon in the ocean economy.