Proper implementation of the budget allocation in health, education, and agriculture is essential. At the same time evaluation and monitoring of the budget is important, said experts at an onine discussion meeting on the upcoming national budget on Tuesday.
They said The budget should be COVID-19 centric, also should address the plight of small-scale enterprises and have a special focus on the youth, women, and other marginalized communities.
The recommendations were made in the seventh episode of SANEM Netizen Forum on COVID-19 Pandemic.
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, Mr. Mahtab Uddin, Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka and Research Fellow, Ms. Eshrat Sharmin, Research Associate, SANEM, Ms. Mir Ashrafun Nahar, Research Associate, SANEM, and Ms. Fabiha Bushra Khan, Research Associate, SANEM. The episode was live-streamed on the Facebook page of SANEM.
In his introductory remarks, Dr. Raihan expressed his concern regarding the decision of lifting lockdown in Bangladesh. He said that the decision to open up has not been properly planned. Each day the number of infected cases and deaths is increasing. Other countries did not ease lockdown measures in this way.
He further explained that unplanned opening up will induce huge cost in the near future and may leave us with no choice but to impose a harder version of lockdown in the later days; thus, it is not possible to minimize economic costs by lifting lockdown.
While policies like marking zones on the basis of the spread of disease are appreciated, such policies should have been undertaken long before the lifting of lockdown.
Dr. Raihan also discussed the upcoming budget and said that the present context demands a special approach in Budget with a focus on health, social protection and agriculture. He also opined that the implementation processes of the stimulus package with clear guidelines and monitoring mechanisms must be outlined in the budget. It is highly important that the targeted poor and vulnerable receive the benefit of the stimulus packages.
Explaining the procedures of the proposed budget, revised budget and actual budget, he pointed out that information about the actual budget becomes available after 1.5 years of the proposed budget.
Dr. Raihan remarked that unnecessary government expenditure must be cut down. Also, there should be a prioritization even among the mega projects. While the growth rate has always been a concern, attention must be given to PIE—Poverty, Inequality, Employment. All these three indicators are in bad shape under the current crisis.
He urged that regular updates on the disbursement of the stimulus package be given, so that transparency and accountability can be maintained.
Dr. Raihan also explained that due to shock to both demand and supply side, the economy is in a very vulnerable position and Bangladesh’s achievement in poverty reduction face threat of being overturned.
The forum also stressed on proper implementation of the budget allocation in health, education, and agriculture is essential. At the same time evaluation and monitoring of the budget is important.
“The budget should be COVID-19 centric. The budget should address the plight of small-scale enterprises and have a special focus on the youth, women, and other marginalized communities”, speakers added.
They said capturing the investments deflecting from China would be quite difficult, given, that the existing business and investment the environment has major shortcomings. Also, if the country cannot tackle the COVID-19 situation effectively, it would not be possible to attract those investments even by offering extra benefits.