Speakers at a webinar Tuesday stressed the need for framing a COVID-19 pandemic focused budget for the next fiscal year giving the highest priority to the health sector to mitigate the health-related risks alongside focusing on sound macroeconomic management, widening social safety nets, raising the tax-GDP ratio and generating more employments.
They also emphasised strengthening the ongoing vaccination programme, carrying on necessary tax reforms as well as reducing the corporate tax rates, ensuring proper budget implementation and quality spending of development projects, addressing the livelihood issues in the context of pandemic, prioritising the CMSMEs and bringing the education sector under the purview of the stimulus packages.
The recommendations came up with at a webinar on ‘Macroeconomy: Expectations from National Budget 2021-22’ jointly organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) and the Economic Reporters' Forum (ERF).
The Economic Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Dr Mashiur Rahman agreed with the suggestions to enhance budgetary allocation on the health sector and thus strengthen the ongoing vaccination campaign.
Stressing the need for carrying out necessary reforms in the financial sector and in the revenue sector, he said reforms in the capital market and bond market is also necessary to attract the large scale investors.
Mashiur noted that if the lion’s share of the deficit financing could be made available from the foreign sources then its impact on the domestic sector would not be that much.
He also stressed the need for boosting confidence among the businesses and investors, attracting more FDI, ensuring skills development and sound basic education up to the secondary level.
Distinguished Fellow of CPD Prof Dr Mustafizur Rahman emphasised on generating more employments, giving relief to the import substitute industries through taxation, revisiting the import regulations, enhancing quality expenditure, and ensuring necessary reforms.
He was also critical about the scope for whitening black money in the budget saying it is an injustice to the honest taxpayers.
Executive Director of PRI Dr Ahsan H Mansur proposed allocating Tk 15,000 crore for vaccination in the next budget and that fund should be made available from day one.
For the new poor being created from the impacts of the pandemic, he said only cash support is not enough for them, rather some permanent measures should be awarded.
The renowned economist also suggested addressing the livelihood issues due to the pandemic, prioritising the SMEs in the stimulus packages, focusing more on expenditure and said the budget deficit could be stretched from 7 to 8 percent.
Executive Director of SANEM Dr Selim Raihan called for expanding economic operations and not having an obsessed mindset on growth, rolling out social safety net schemes for the urban poor, boosting business confidence through necessary measures, increasing budget implementation and ensuring some visible reforms.
Former adviser to the caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury said that the next budget should be a pandemic-focused one while the education sector should be brought under the stimulus package as the losses to this sector is huge and it is invisible. "Education sector must not be less prioritised," she said.
Chairman of PEB Dr M Masrur Reaz suggested for bringing around 50 percent of the country's population under the vaccination programme in the next one year, otherwise, the revival initiatives and recovery would be much tougher.
He also proposed allocating one percent of GDP as social safety net for the poor as well as awarding another stimulus for the SMEs, especially for the small and micro-entrepreneurs.
Senior research fellow of BIDS Dr Nazneen Ahmed strongly advocated for reducing the corporate tax rate, prioritising those development projects which are nearing completion, keeping budgetary allocation on creating health awareness as well as on health disaster management, making cheaper the internet facilities and also making available the gadgets for the poor students.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan urged the government to provide policy support to the affected industries till the crisis ends so that those could make a turnaround.
He also demanded the government to keep the tax rates stable for 10 years or at least for five years for turnaround of the Industries.
Chairman of Trustee Board of BUILD Abul Kasem Khan suggested for the continuation of the stimulus packages in the next budget as well as rationalizing taxation measures and improving the investment climate.
MCCI President Barrister Nihad Kabir put utmost priority on ensuring qualitative spending of development projects through real-time basis monitoring and evaluation by the IMED, raising the tax-GDP ratio, giving policy support to CMSMEs, and also to check the trend of dodging tax and laundering of money abroad.
DCCI President Rizwan Rahman suggested reducing the corporate tax rate progressively by 2.5 percent in the next three years and thus brings it at 25 percent to facilitate the businesses.
Coming down heavily on the scope for whitening undisclosed money, he said that the business community would not accept such provision for whitening the money coming from 'burglary'. "Otherwise, the honest businesses will not feel encouraged to pay tax from the next year," he added.
BASIS President Syed Almas Kabir suggested keeping the digital transaction out of the purview of VAT for the next 3 to 5 years to facilitate online transaction and wider materialisation of the 'Digital Bangladesh' initiative.
ICAB President Mahmudul Hasan Khusru said the tax net is not widening that is why honest and existing taxpayers are overburdened with incremental tax recovery target.
“While we would be graduating as developing country, our preferential benefits would be eroded, we’ve to compete with other developing countries. Hence, human resource development is paramount important, capacity building of our institutions and adoption of advanced technologies and professional education are also important to emphasise in the budgetary allocation,” he added.
FICCI President Rupali Haque Chowdhury, former President of AmCham AKM Aftabul Islam, chief news editor of the Daily Prothom Alo Shawkat Hossain Masum, ICAB vice presidents Sidhartha Barua, Md Abdul Kader Joaddar and council member of ICAB Mohammad Forkan Uddin spoke at the webinar.
Former ICAB president Md Humayun Kabir moderated the function while its CEO Shubhashish Bose spoke. ERF President Sharmin Rinvy made the opening remarks while its general secretary SM Rashidul Islam gave the vote of thanks and ICAB Vice President Maria Howlader gave the closing remarks.