Budget execution a major issue

Promila Kanya

Dr. Nazma Begum, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka says

The election year usually demands visible changes in infrastructure. It is commendable that the government has focused on major projects such as Padma Bridge and the power plants. If the budget is implemented properly, these infrastructural changes will be good for the economy undoubtedly.

Dr. Nazma Begum, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka said this in an exclusive interview with Bangladesh Post.

The following is the excerpts of the interview:

Bangladesh Post: Would you please share your thoughts on last year’s budget?

Dr. Nazma Begum: More concern about the current budget is its implementation process rather than allocation as execution process is not as efficient as it needs to be. There is inefficiency in the implementation process. Full implementation of the budget is hindered accordingly. Whatever allocation we have in different sectors, is not utilised fully. Like in the past, in the last quarter, we are observing a rush where as there should have been a smooth operating flow in the utilisation of the budget allocation throughout the year.

Another drawback is utilisation of resources as many projects were not as effective as it should be and resources are not utilized to their full potential. Therefore, if major changes are not brought about to enhance the implementation capacity, this year’s budget too may face similar consequences.

Bangladesh Post: According to the finance minister’s announcement, the probable size of the budget for the next fiscal year of 2018-2019 would be Tk 4.75 lakh crore with the highest allocation for transport and energy sector.

Dr. Nazma Begum: The election year usually demands visible changes in infrastructure but apart from that, it is commendable that the government has focused on major projects such as Padma Bridge and the power plants. In this sense, if budget is implemented properly, these infrastructural changes will be good for the economy undoubtedly. However, with any public investment, there may be inefficiencies which the government needs to take care of.

Bangladesh Post: According to you, how important is effective monitoring of budget implementation?

Dr. Nazma Begum: I think transparent and effective monitoring of budget implementation is absolutely crucial. An independent body could be formed to take the responsibility of this effective monitoring as IMED alone should not take this burden. This body may consist of representatives from different government and non-government sectors who would ensure good governance and effective monitoring and evaluation.

Bangladesh Post: As someone who has dedicated a major portion of her life to teaching, what are your suggestions for budget allocation for education?

Dr. Nazma Begum: There is a pressing need for ‘quality education’. We sadly witness ‘quantity education’ around us these days. Mushrooming educational institutes which rarely fit any standards do not provide quality education. If a nation wants to develop, it has to have quality education. We are also in dire need of quality teachers and quality infrastructure in order to ensure quality education. To ensure this, I would suggest that allocation for education should be increased to a substantial amount and care should be taken of so that the allocated amount is used fully, properly and efficiently.

Bangladesh Post: Do you think this year’s budget should include a policy statement on estimated fund for Rohingya refugees in coming years and the source of such funds?

Dr. Nazma Begum: No doubt, that Rohingya repatriation process will take time. There is looming uncertainty about how long they will have to reside in Bangladesh. Funds utilised for the refugees need proper planning. Therefore, if there is a guideline in the budget, then funds allocated for the refugees will be clearly accounted for. There will be more transparency in the source and use of funds.

Bangladesh Post: Do you think there should be restructuring and implementing of revenue collection?

Dr. Nazma Begum: Since there is revenue shortfall, the revenue collection should be more emphasised. Tax base should be widened rather than increasing the tax at a progressive rate. The unsettled revenue collection or tax issues between NBR and few corporate should be resolved. That will help increase revenues. In our banking sector, year after year we see recapitalization at the cost of public money. Bangladesh Bank needs to work on ensuring effective monitoring in order to mitigate such problems.

Bangladesh Bank should also decide on not taking drastic measures such as reducing the CRR or investing government funds in commercial banks which we recently witnessed. Instead of such lavish distribution of government’s money, the banks could be given such advantages based on their performances. These steps will help reduce revenue shortfall.
Another thing I would like to mention is that the capital market in Bangladesh is not functioning very smoothly and properly.

If it functions properly, it can be a very good source of revenue. Although capital market is not regulated by Bangladesh Bank but when banks invest in capital market, they need to be regulated. In that case, Bangladesh Securities and exchange Commission (BSEC) and Bangladesh Bank together could form a separate monitoring and regulating body to ensure effective monitoring and proper functioning of the capital market with good governance.