Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said her government was determined to implement the national budget for the coming 2020-21 fiscal despite the coronavirus hurdles as many analysts feared it could be a tough job because of continued COVID-19 onslaughts.
“We have never failed to implement budgets and we will also not fail in the future as well,” she said while taking part in the general discussion on the budget as the Leader of the House in the eighth session of the eleventh parliament.
The premier said many people described the budget to be “highly-ambitious” while she was aware of the challenges which the government was likely to face in implementing the budgetary proposals amid the COVID-19 crisis that virtually halted the global economy.
She said her government would make its way ahead towards building the “Sonar Bangla” free from poverty-and-hunger as dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman while the implementation of the Taka 5.68 lakh crore “balanced budget” would be part of that endeavour.
“I personally believe a proper plan and due courage will make it possible . . . frustration never hold us back,” Sheikh Hasina said.
The premier said her government always goes ahead with a goal and specific work plan “but at times we have to reset the plan considering the situation and necessity as well”.
But, the prime minister expressed her firm determination that Bangladesh would once again join the journey towards the development by offsetting the economic impact of the global pandemic as she said, “We have a very strong socio-economic position in the world.”
Bangladesh has been approaching ahead with a vision of making the country a happy and prosperous one although it is currently facing the global pandemic, she said, adding that “Bangladesh would go ahead towards the developments by overcoming all the hurdles and it is currently doing so.”
The premier said in the FY 21 Taka 5.68 lakh crore has been proposed in parliament by the Finance Minister in view of meeting up the temporary needs in the health sector as well as overcoming the damages in various sectors of the economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Noting that this is the 20th budget of the Awami League government with three by the post independent government led by Bangabandhu and two by the present government, she said, “Priority has been given on streaming the economy alongside protecting the lives and livelihoods in face of the coronavirus.”
Besides, health, agriculture, and employment generation have been prioritised in giving allocation in the annual development programme of the budget, she continued.
Sheikh Hasina said that they have set a target of 8.2 percent GDP growth in FY 21 as they are hopeful that the world and domestic economy will recover their fallouts gradually in 2021 after facing the COVID-19 and the country’s economy will retain its previous condition again.
The prime minister said they have taken the required measures in order to maintain stability in the macro economy and low inflation rate.
Justifying the placement of such a huge budget with a target of 8.2 percent GDP growth although the coronavirus has been rattling the entire world, the premier said four assumptions have led to place such a budget.
The assumptions are: (Ka) though the economic productions have been hampered due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but there were no damages of economic infrastructures which usually occur in natural disasters or wars.
(Kha) The employment generation will be increased with escalating government expenditure and internal demand will increase with increasing personal income while the production and supply will reach to its prior position if the stimulus packages are implemented properly.
(Ga) The normalcy in the livelihoods in Europe and America will likely to return quickly if the COVID-19 vaccine hits the market within October or November and thus our export earnings will retain its prior position.
(Gha) Fuel prices are gradually increasing in the international market, so the present crisis regarding overseas employment and remittance will end.
The premier said her government has taken multifaceted measures to overcome the crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic since its breakout alongside formulating an overall work plan to offset the adverse impact on the country’s economy.
“We have implemented some of the works quickly, and are taking some short-and-long-term initiatives to overcome the hurdles following the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
She continued the work plan has four main strategic aspects that included increase of government expenditure, formulation of packages on financial assistance, expansion of the areas of social safety net programmes and finally increase of supply of money in the market.
The prime minister said the government has already announced 19 stimulus packages of Taka 103,117 crore in a planned way and well before it is required aimed at reaching its benefit to the vast people.
“With starting implementation of the packages, as many as 5.70 crore people have so far got its benefit directly. If the 19 stimulus packages are implemented properly 12.55 crore people would get its advantage while 1.60 employment will be protected and generated as well,” she added.
The premier said they have attached top priority on health sector with allocating more fund, packages and compensation to control further spread of the COVID-19.
“The Health Services Division has secured 5th position from the previous eighth in terms of allocation,” she said.
A special programme involving Taka 5,500 crore is being implemented while the National Preparedness and Response Plan has already been implemented to protect lives of masses from the lethal virus, she said.
The prime minister also said they have allocated Taka 10,000 crore to meet the emergency demand to fight the COVID-19 while the government has given approval to two projects involving Taka 2,500 crore to purchase medical equipment, test kit and increase health facilities.
She also said that the approval of one more project is now at the final stage adding that the capacity to treat COVID-19 patents will be extended further if all the projects are implemented accordingly.
She added that 2000 physicians and 6000 nurses have already been appointed to ensure better treatment for the COVID-19 patients while posts for recruitment of 2000 more physicians and 3000 health technologists, cardiographers, and lab attendants have already been created.
Pointing at an allegation raised by Deputy Opposition Leader GM Quader in the House earlier, the prime minister said the expenditure of Tk 20 crore against hotel rent and foods of a medical college seems to be slightly unusual.
“We’re investigating it as to why it is so unusual. We’ll take action if any irregularity occurred there,” she added.
The prime minister reiterated her government stance on showing “zero tolerance” against corruption and vowed to continue the dragnet against the corrupt elements, saying, “No corrupt will be spared.”
“We will continue the drives against corruption to maintain the country’s development trend and uphold our achievements,” she continued.
Referring to the death rate in the COVID-19 in India (3.08 percent), Pakistan (2.03 percent), the UK (14.03 percent) and the USA (5.0 percent), the premier said the global death rate is 5.01 percent while the death rate in Bangladesh is only 1.26 percent.
“The statistics shows that we have been able to maintain lower death rate in comparison to others as the government has taken effective measures in this regard. No death is expected,” she continued.
She prayed for salvation of the departed souls who died in the COVID-19 disease and early recovery of the coronavirus infected patients.
The premier the poverty rate is being decreased by 1.4 percent on an average in Bangladesh while the reducing trend may be experienced otherwise as the economic activities have been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She, however, expressed the hope that her government would be able to stop increasing poverty rate by implementing the already declared stimulus packages in a proper manner.
“We will be able to bring the poverty rate to its former trend with resuming the normal economic activities in the next fiscal year,” she hoped.
The premier said the agriculture sector has got second priority in the budget aimed at averting food crisis during the period of coronavirus pandemic.
“I asked the agriculture ministry and its associate organisations to take prompt measures to bring every inch of arable land under cultivation as no food crisis is created in the post-corona period,” she continued.
Mentioning that Bangladesh has secured third position in the world in production of rice, she said, the government has taken measures to purchase 11.50 lakh metric tonnes of rice and 8 lakh metric tonnes of paddy in this Boro season, amounting to double in comparison to the last Boro season.
The prime minister said Bangladesh produced some 3.99 crore metric tonnes of crops this time which is 25 lakh metric tonnes higher than the domestic demand.
The premier said the social safety net programme has also got priority in the budget with an allocation of Taka 95,574 crore which is 16.8 percent of the total allocation and 3.01 percent of the GDP.
As many as 12,330 5500 people are the beneficiaries of the social safety net programme, she added.