Country moving forward due to strides in agriculture, exports and inward remittance, he says
Vaccines should be arranged for the people of the country as soon as possible as vaccination is integral to stopping the coronavirus, Planning Minister MA Mannan said on Sunday.
“If we can't achieve herd immunity, then we will lose our export markets," he said while speaking at a webinar, titled “Reflections on the Budget 2021-22,” organised jointly by the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF), Research Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) and The Asia Foundation (TAF).
Mannan said research firms like SANEM, PPRC and PRI show that the number of new poor in Bangladesh stands between 10 million and 50 million.
"We will have to sharpen our instruments to address the issue. We admit it and we are committed intellectually, morally and in all other possible ways to address the issue," he said.
Mentioning that the country is now moving forward due to strides in agriculture, exports and inward remittance, the minister said inward remittance is now playing the vital role as the 2% cash incentive provided by the government is paying off.
He also said the government is trying to improve the quality of data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), as well as the ease of doing business in the country.
Mannan said the country has a huge informal sector that should be brought under the system.
He suggested that the revenue board offices be expanded to the upazila level, as there are many growing enterprises that could be brought under the tax net.
To address inequalities, the minister said: “The government cannot perform miracles, but there are, of course, some ways to reduce the pain. The government is trying to reduce that pain more at the bottom line."
Furthermore, he praised the governments efforts over the past decade to ensure almost 100% electricity coverage for households in the country.
FBCCI President Md Jashim Uddin said the country is still going through the pandemic, so the top priority should be saving lives and then maintaining livelihoods.
"Vaccination is very important as the whole world, especially Europe and America, are now moving fast with vaccination. If we cannot keep pace, then we will fall into trouble and our exports will be stopped," he said.
Noting that the proposed budget for FY22 has covered almost all the areas, the president of the country's apex trade body demanded the government withdraw the provision for advance income tax (AIT) and advance VAT.
He suggested setting up tax and VAT offices at the upazila level to further boost revenue collection and enhance the tax-GDP ratio in the country.
Laying emphasis on further strengthening the NBR, Jashim said businesses want to pay taxes but the procedures should be simplified.
He also said there is no alternative to improvement in infrastructure to face LDC graduation challenges.
The FBCCI president also proposed awarding another stimulus package for micro and small entrepreneurs. The apex trade body could work as a link between small and micro entrepreneurs, and the banking system.
"The small and micro enterprises are driving the country's economy forward."
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said the economy of Bangladesh has performed very well compared to other countries despite the Covid-19 pandemic, due to the resilience of inward remittance and exports.
He, however, noted that there has been no real private investment in the country over the last one and a half years due to the coronavirus.
“Without a huge level of private investment, we will not be able to generate necessary employment,” he said.
Underscoring the need to vaccinate the people, Faruque said the country is still lagging behind in vaccination while the major export destinations like the EU, the USA and the UK have advanced far.
The BGMEA president said they would not need any stimulus packages if the ease of doing business index is improved to a desired level.
He said garment makers are now ready to pursue the high potential of non-cotton apparel, but they need some policy support and incentives from the government to flourish and create more jobs.
He also said a ration card system could be introduced to provide essential items to RMG workers at an affordable price. The BTRC could help to provide transport facilities to the workers, while housing facilities could be provided to workers on government khas lands.
Executive Director of RAPID Dr Abu Eusuf presented the keynote paper. ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy presided the event, while ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam was the moderator.