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Dhaka Tribune

Likely priorities for the election-year budget

Update : 18 Jan 2018, 03:28 AM
The government is considering popular opinion while planning for the upcoming budget which will be the last one in its current tenure, with the next general election likely to be held in December. Following an order from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry has already started preparing the proposed budget for the fiscal 2018-19 focusing on tapping into the opportunities of the global economy, increasing remittance inflow and exploring new export markets. The work in this regard is in progress despite the fact that a new government will be in power when the next financial year ends on June 30, 2019. Sources said the government, focusing on capacity building, is mulling an increased allocation in several sectors, significantly social safety, education and health. The allowances, including those meant for freedom fighters, under the social safety net programme can be increased. Allocation for rural and agricultural development sectors is likely to soar noticeably while more employment opportunities will be created, the sources said, adding that the government will also give importance on human resource development. Under the plan of infrastructural development, the ports, rail and road communication, and power and energy sectors will be prioritised. The issue of skill development to tackle climate change, on information and communication technology, and to help build a Digital Bangladesh will also be on the priority list. Finance Minister AMA Muhith had previously said that the budget size will be below Tk500,000 crore. The proposed budget will be raised by nearly 16.5% compared to the current fiscal year’s budgetary allocation. If so, the next budget will be of more than Tk468,000 crore. Meanwhile, the Annual Development Programme (ADP) allocation can be estimated at Tk178,296 crore, whereas the figure for ADP in the current fiscal year is Tk153,331 crore. The target of gross domestic product (DGP) growth and inflation rates could be set at 7.6% and 5.5% respectively over the same period when Tk340,770 crore is likely to be the overall revenue collection target. In order to increase revenue earnings, a law can be amended as well. Mentionable, the total GDP volume will be of Tk2,574,100 crore in the fiscal 2018-19  against the ongoing financial year’s GDP target set at Tk2,223,600 crore. The budget, the Finance Ministry sources said, will be designed keeping the matter in mind that the voters do not feel pressure due to it. Unnecessary taxes and duties will be abolished and the government may launch e-payment and e-filling services to curb hassle in submitting income tax returns. The government can also introduce a 37-digit budget and accounting classification system aiming to ensure accountability and transparency regarding the spending from the revenue collected. Incentives and budget deficit may cover 1.1% of the total GDP, with the budget deficit being predicted to go up. There will be low concerns about inflation rates since the possibility of fuel oil getting dearer is very little in the current year. According the Planning Ministry, the government has crafted plans for visible development centring the next polls, to keep the masses happy. In doing so, it will push up allocation for several top priority projects, including Padma Bridge, Payra and Sonadia deep seaports, Rampal coal-fired and Rooppur nuclear power plants, Dhaka metro rail and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in Moheshkhali that received Tk33,182 crore in the current fiscal year. When contacted, State Minister for Finance MA Mannan said: “There will definitely be some new additions to the next budget keeping in mind the general election. And, this is very normal.” “Considering the public interest, the next budget will be prepared. Programmes linked to the people will see a rise in their allocation. New programmes may also be undertaken for them,” he said. The state minister, however, said the government will not take up any large project, in order to highlight its success in the development sector. Talking about the next budget, AB Mirza Azizul Islam, a former adviser to the caretaker government, said the government will try to increase allocation in all thrust sectors ahead of the polls. “In brief, the budget will be meant to make the people happy, which is pretty normal. But implementation of such a budget is challenging because everyone will remain busy over the election,” he said. l  
The story was first published on banglatribune.com
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