Upcoming budget should include a “Covid-19 Response Budget”: Experts say


The upcoming budget should include a “COVID-19 Response Budget” for all the ministries so that the ministries can give attention to anti-pandemic measures as well while continuing their development efforts and routine work, said experts while exchanging views in a Netizen Forum. 

They said the “COVID-19 Response Budget” must be designed to prioritize public health issues and act as a supporting measure for the national fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic

The remarks were made in the sixth episode of SANEM Netizen Forum on COVID-19 Pandemic took place on Monday. 

Moderated by Dr. Selim Raihan, Executive Director, SANEM and Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, the forum was attended by around 50 participants of diverse backgrounds. 

The SANEM Panel included Dr. Sayema Haque Bidisha, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka and Research Director, SANEM, Zubayer Hossen, Research Economist, SANEM, Eshrat Sharmin, Research Associate, SANEM, Ms. Mir Ashrafun Nahar, Research Associate, SANEM,  Fabiha Bushra Khan, Research Associate, SANEM and, Shakil Ahmed, Research Associate, SANEM. 

In his introductory remarks, Dr. Raihan reflected on the socio-economic impacts of the ongoing lockdown in Bangladesh. 

He addressed the discourse on lives vs. livelihood and explained the necessity of prioritizing health in policy actions as the resumption of full fledge economic activities can fuel the spread of the pandemic and undo the national achievements against the pandemic. 

He also discussed the agricultural scenario—appreciating government response towards Boro harvesting he pointed out the losses being incurred by livestock, fisheries, and fruit industries. 

He stressed the importance of increasing allocations for the agricultural sector, health sector, social safety net in the upcoming budget. Opining that the government should consider 8-10% deficit in the upcoming budget, he also recommended austerity measures at the national level for channeling resources for the welfare of the poor. 

The forum also made a set of suggestions and proposals which include the Resumption of economic activities has to be carefully planned. Virologists and epidemiologists must be consulted before lifting the ongoing lockdown.

“The upcoming budget should include a “COVID-19 Response Budget” for all the ministries so that the ministries can give attention to anti-pandemic measures as well while continuing their development efforts and routine work. The “COVID-19 Response Budget” must be designed to prioritize public health issues and act as a supporting measure for the national fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic”, the panalests suggested adding that the policymakers must consider austerity measures in national level. 

Bonus and other benefits for high-level employees can be cut off in this regard and the money saved from such austerity measures can be reallocated for emergency and relief programs and financial schemes for SMEs. 

Private sector can also take some austerity measures in terms of canceling unnecessary costs and channeling resources for the welfare of the workers. To tackle the upcoming economic recession such austerity measures will be helpful.