The size of the ensuing budget (FY 2021-22) to be declared in the parliament on June 3 is expected to be over Tk. 6 lakhs crore i.e., 6.14 percent higher than the original budget of Tk. 568,000 crore for the current year. It is learnt that keeping in mind the possible impacts of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic the next budget is going to give priority to vaccination, economic recovery and protect the lives and livelihoods of the poor. In the proposed next national budget the government is going to fix allocation of Tk. 35,000 crore for the health sector which is Tk. 5,754 crore higher than the current fiscal year’s budget.
The government already has approved an Annual Development Plan (ADP) worth Taka 2.25 trillion for the 2021-22 fiscal, marking a 14 percent increase from last year’s budget. According to Planning Minister M A Mannan, apart from the budget for the next fiscal year’s ADP, the NEC meeting held on 18 May also allotted Taka 113.68 billion for the development of autonomous organisations. So the total ADP stands at Taka 2.36 trillion against Taka 2.05 trillion (later revised down Taka 1.97 trillion) for the fiscal 2020-21. In the next year’s ADP, the domestic sources will account for Taka 1.37 trillion while Taka 880.24 bill be sourced from overseas.
National budget worth Taka 6,02,880 crore is really a promising and ambitious one especially at a time when the coronavirus catastrophe has put serious challenge to our economy. The first wave of Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020 overwhelmed normal business operations and global supply chain causing economic activities across all sectors squeezed and declining economic growth. Bangladesh’s GDP growths come down to 5.24 percent in FY20 from 8.15 percent in FY19. In order to prevent economic fallout and to restore the economy the government took extensive fiscal measures and declared a comprehensive stimulus package worth more than Taka 1.24 trillion which is around 4.44 percent of GDP. The main objective of announcing stimulus package was to support faster recovery of economic growth for sustaining the livelihood of the people.
The government distributed nearly 9 lakhs tons of food grain to the day laborers and poor people and fed nearly 11-13 lakhs people. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina personally looks after the food distribution process. As a result not a single person died of starvation. It was a great challenge to feed the huge number of people
and running economy by enforcing shutdown due to Covid-19 pandemic. But Sheikh Hasina made it possible very successfully. The good news is despite economic slowdown, growth rate of Bangladesh in 2020 projected to be the highest among all South Asian countries as estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB). Only Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal are witnessing positive growth. Bangladesh’s performance would be much better than others. Against this backdrop Bangladesh has been facing second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. This time Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is dealing with the pandemic situation so efficiently that the economy is running well.
She has brought the coronavirus situation under control and continued the economic activities as well. The implementation of the mega projects are going on in full swing. Remittances sent by migrant workers and non-resident Bangladeshis rose 35 percent year-on-year in the first nine months of the current fiscal year, hitting $18.60 billion in total. In March alone, migrant workers remitted $1.91 billion from different countries, up 50 percent from a year ago, the highest growth since last August.
Country’s foreign exchange reserve also hit a new record of $44.02 billion this month due to upward trend of remittance and lower imports. The reserves, one of the major macroeconomic indicators of an economy, touched the 41 billion mark on October 28 and rose $42 billion on December 15 and $43 billion in December 30 last year. The country’s tax revenue collection grew by 2.10 percent in the first half of the current fiscal year 2020—1 despite Covid-19 pandemic hit economy. The NBR collected Tk. 1,08 trillion as income tax, travel tax, VAT and import duties in July-December period. Boro harvesting is now in full swing expecting a bumper production.
When all the economic indicators are showing positive sign even during Covid-19 pandemic the announcement of budget worth Taka 6 lakhs core for the FY 2020-21 would help move forward to achieve the target of SDG 20230 and Vision 2041. The government has already built capacity to implement big budget. So it would not be difficult to implement the proposed gigantic budget as the government is doing everything keeping Vision 2041 in mind.
Finally, the increase of allocation in the health sector budget is all right. But mass vaccination should be given top priority in the upcoming budget. Because Covid-19 pandemic will not go if we could not mitigate the catastrophe through launching mass vaccination. We have to get rid of the coronavirus at any cost. We should also keep in mind that the coronavirus is ravaging India. This double muted virus has already entered into Bangladesh.
Dr S A Malek is former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist