BNP on Thursday said the proposed national budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year has failed to reflect people’s hopes and aspirations.
In an instant reaction to the proposed budget, party standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury said, “I think people’s lives and livelihoods, and humanity have been ignored in the budget.”
Earlier in the day, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal placed a Tk 5,68,000 crore national budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year in Parliament.
Khosru, also a former commerce minister, said the GDP growth and revenue collection targets which have been set in the budget amid the coronavirus pandemic is tantamount to a "deception".
He said a large portion of the total allocations has been given in the budget for mega projects, which is a questionable move at this time.
Khosru said mega projects should not have got priority at this time of pandemic as people’s lives and livelihoods are now at stake. “The higher allocation for the mega projects has been given for the continuation of the current trend of corruption.”
He said the government’s allocation for the health sector and the social safety net is not adequate.
The BNP leader also opposed the black money whitening option in the budget, saying it is an attempt to keep the corruption trend continue.
He said their party Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir is likely to come up with a formal reaction to the national budget at a virtual press conference at 4pm on Friday.
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Thursday castigated the budget reaction of BNP, calling it pre-prepared and imaginary old story.
“BNP’s budget reaction is pre-prepared, imaginary and a traditional old story,” he said in an immediate response at his official residence in the capital this afternoon.
BNP Standing Committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury claimed that people’s hopes and aspirations were not reflected in the proposed budget.
“People’s lives and livelihoods in addition to humanity were completely ignored in the budget,” Khasru claimed.
Rejecting the claim, Quader, also road, transport and bridges minister, said the budget was made in a different context.
“It is a document of realistic expectation to turn the prevailing coronavirus crisis into a potential,” he added.
The AL general secretary said the budget is the golden crop of courageous and time-befitting thoughts of the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina aimed at keeping the wheel of life and livelihood operational.
He described the budget as a plan for economic transition of the countrymen.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal proposed the national budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021 at the National Parliament on Thursday.
Terming the detention of a Bangladeshi MP by Kuwait on charge of ‘human trafficking’ a shameful incident, BNP alleged that the government has introduced 'casino capitalism' in the country by ‘usurping’ power.
Speaking at a virtual press conference, party's Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the government cannot avoid the responsibility for the misdeeds of Laxmipur-2 Mohammad Shahid Islam, widely known as Kazi Papul.
According to media reports, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Kuwait detained Papul from his residence there on Saturday night due to an alleged involvement in human trafficking and money laundering.
"MP Kazi Shahid Islam has been arrested in Kuwait on charges of human trafficking and corruption of thousands of crores of taka. Though it’s a very shameful incident for Bangladesh, the government is least bothered about it. An unknown person in the country's political arena, Papul became an MP and also made his wife the same, and the sources of their wealth is not known,” said Rizvi.
Ever since Awami League came to power, he alleged that persons like Papul are nurtured by removing people, the source of all power of the country, from the political landscape.
“This is how casino capitalism has been introduced in the country over the last 12 years. So, the government can't evade the responsibility for the misdeeds of Papul.”
Turning to the coronavirus issue, Rizvi said both the deaths and infections from the deadly virus is surging daily due to the government’s ‘failure’ to tackle the situation.
He also said people are going through serious trouble for lack of treatment and equipment at the hospitals. "People are crying for an oxygen cylinder, and ventilator support to protect the lives of their near and dear ones.”
Stating that the Health Ministry used to get a budgetary allocation of Tk 10,000 crore to Tk 20,000 crore every year, the BNP leader said the health sector was not developed due to corruption and irregularities. “The country’s health sector wouldn’t have collapsed had it been developed over the years utilising the budgetary allocation.”
Rizvi said the government is arresting BNP leaders and activists at such a bad time of pandemic and suppressing them by using the state machinery.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi on Tuesday alleged that the government has recently promoted 123 officials to the post of joint secretaries amid the coronavirus pandemic only to serve its political interests.
“The government has been preparing to give one-party rule a permanent shape during this difficult time of corona pandemic as it seems they suffer from nervousness. That’s way they’ve been on a spree of promoting the people of their choice,” he said.
At a virtual press conference on Tuesday, the BNP leader further said, “A few days back, 123 deputy secretaries were promoted to the post of joint secretaries. This supernumerary promotion by the government is entirely in the political interests.”
Despite having no vacant position, Rizvi said the government promoted the administrative officials only to secure its power.
Earlier on Friday, the government promoted 123 officials holding the rank of deputy secretary to the post of joint secretary in a latest reshuffle in the administration.
Rizvi said many questions have been raised as the government issued the promotion order on a holiday. “There’re no posts available, but the promotion is going on. As per media reports, most of the officers will have to remain in their previous positions for lack of posts.”
He claimed that those got promotion, including four ministers' private secretaries and six deputy commissioners, have close link with Awami League.
The BNP leader also alleged that many talented officers were not promoted despite having qualifications. “Only those who are associated with the ruling party in various ways are being promoted after verifying their loyalty.”
As the national budget will be placed in parliament amid coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, BNP has urged the government to give main focus on protecting people’s lives and livelihoods in the budget instead of economic growth.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on the budget on Tuesday, party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir also presented a 13-point proposal for framing the national budget for the welfare of people amid the virus crisis.
"At this time of corona crisis, people's lives and livelihoods should be given the highest priority instead of economic growth. It won’t be possible to revive the economy if the corona infection can’t be prevented,” he observed.
Fakhrul, also a former teacher of economics, said the economy will not be vibrant if the corona like risk persists in the health sector.
“On behalf of the BNP, we think that the budget should be formulated in the light of a three-year recovery plan,” he said.
In the medium-term budget structure, Fakhrul said a new system should be made in combination of monetary and revenue policies giving the highest focus on creating new jobs, retaining the current employment and preventing the income and economic contractions.
He urged the government to consider BNP’s proposed Tk 87,000 crore special bailout package in the national budget to overcome the coronavirus fallouts.
On April 4, BNP demanded the government form a special fund of Tk 87,000 crore to tackle the impacts of coronavirus on the country’s economy.
Fakhrul recommended bringing the poor under the health allowance by allocating five percent of the GDP in the budget for the overall expenditure of the health sector.
In the 13-point proposal, he also urged the government to increase the budgetary allocation for widening social safety net, ensuring food and nutrition security, welfare of labour, development of agriculture, education, and enhancing rural development and employment.
The BNP leader said the coronavirus has exposed the sordid condition of the country’s health sector. “To protect health of the people of the country, the health system needs to be restored and restructured.”
He said both the income tax and Value Added Tax will be reduced as the economy has slowed down due to the pandemic. “So, revenue collection will not be as expected and the focus should be given on foreign loan to manage the budget deficit.”
Stating that budget deficit will be higher than usual in the next fiscal due to the pandemic situation, the BNP leader has put forward a set of recommendations, including reducing unnecessary expenditure, eliminating capacity charges and subsidies in the power sector, taking steps to reduce additional manpower, increasing foreign grants from bilateral and multilateral sources, taking long term foreign loans with low interest and grace period, non-borrowing from domestic banking sector, setting up foreign exchange import fund, facilitating tax collection and collecting work permit fees and income tax from about 2.5 lakh unregistered foreigners working in the country, to fill the budget deficit.
He said Covid-19 is signaling a kind of change in the society, economy and politics across the world. “Without a radical change, the economy will stagnate for an indefinite period and the social stability will hamper. How this change will take place will depend on the people's relationship with the state and the government’s accountability to people in a democratic system.”
Fakhrul alleged that the current Awami League government is not accountable to people since it is least bothered about getting votes from people.
The BNP secretary general said the government will have to shoulder the responsibility for the failure and socio-political-economic consequences in dealing with the corona crisis.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal is expected to place the national budget for 2020-2021fiscal in parliament on June 11.