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A budget that does not rock the boat

  • Published at 01:44 pm June 8th, 2018
  • Last updated at 02:28 pm June 8th, 2018
File photo of Finance Minister AMA Muhith Dhaka Tribune

It is good to see this year’s budget placing a higher tax on the habits of the affluent

With election season fast approaching, it makes sense for this year’s budget to be one that pleases the people at large. And indeed, by following the numbers, a budget that aims to please is exactly what Finance Minister AMA Muhith presented yesterday in parliament.

A particularly laudable aspect of the new budget is its encouragement of green practices -- to encourage the increased use of jute, a 5% supplementary duty has been proposed on all polythene bags, plastic bags, and poly-packaging. 

Equally commendable, to that effect, is the proposal of a supplementary duty reduction on the import of hybrid cars from the existing 45% to 20%.

For a country that is struggling with the effects of climate change and the deteriorating quality of life it brings, each step we take towards environmental integrity counts.

But perhaps the most important point to note is the allocation of nearly one-third of the entire proposed budget to women’s development -- an ambitious and inclusive proposal, if anything, but a sound one.

While the overall budget allocation towards ICT has seen a relative decrease this year in comparison to the last, certain policies such as making local mobile phone manufacturers tax-exempt are an obvious step in the right direction for both our ICT and manufacturing sectors.

But more nebulous actions such as placing a 5% tax on what are being called “virtual businesses” -- which include services ranging from ride-sharing apps such as Uber to the plethora of businesses which run over social networking sites like Facebook -- are harder to gauge in terms of long-term benefits, even though taxation in this sector itself is not necessarily a bad idea.

It is good to see this year’s budget placing a higher tax on the habits of the affluent, with a 20% supplementary duty being placed on venues which sell liquor, or luxuries like helicopter rides.

A budget that keeps political goals in mind, the proposals placed this year are clearly meant to cast as wide a net as possible. But that is not a bad thing.

In fact, a budget that is sets its ambitions high while also making sure that the boat does not get rocked is, if anything, a sign of the kind of political maturity that we have come to expect out of the current administration.

What will remain to be seen in the coming months is how well the government follows up on this budget.