July 20, 2024, 12:52 am

Staff Correspondent

2024-06-11 12:08:19 BdST

Banking, energy sectors neglected in budget: Dr Debapriya

Economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 lacks measures to address the issues plaguing the banking and energy sectors of Bangladesh, which he described as the ‘lungs’ of the country's economy.

According to him, the government's focus appears to be on influential individuals rather than the common people.

He shared his views at a press conference on “National Budget 2024-25 and Prevailing Situation: Access to Disadvantaged People” on Monday.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, with support from the European Union organised the event at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka’s Mohakhali area.

Other prominent speakers included Chairman of Policy Exchange of Bangladesh M Masrur Reaz, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Iftekharuzzaman, East West University economics professor AK Enamul Haque, and Jahangirnagar University economics professor Sharmind Neelormi.

CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya pointed out that various initiatives in the budget do not prioritise the needs of the general population but rather cater to specific influential groups.

“Banks and the energy sector are very important for us this time, just like the lungs of the body. But there is no mention of repairing them in the budget,” he said.

The eminent economist emphasised that the implementation of the budget requires accountability and good governance, suggesting potential legal changes to ensure these elements.

Taufiqul Islam Khan, Research Director of CPD, presented the keynote at the press briefing.

He noted that the budget reduces indirect tax exemptions significantly but fails to address direct tax reliefs in sectors such as garments, fuel, and microcredit.

He criticised the provision allowing the legalisation of black money with a 15% tax, pointing out disparities in tax rates for property purchases in affluent areas.

Khan expressed concerns over the lack of measures to tackle the economic crisis's root causes, such as market irregularities, banking sector issues, and the debt crisis.

He called for prioritising disadvantaged groups in economic policies, highlighting that around 30% of low-income people suffer from food insecurity.

Dr Bhattacharya highlighted discrepancies between the proposed budget and the ruling party’s election manifesto, indicating that the budget's policies and allocations do not align with the government’s planned initiatives.

Iftekharuzzaman said, “This year’s budget is ambitious but empty. Those who are already behind will fall further behind. Small traders will struggle. This budget will widen the gap between the rich and poor and increase corruption levels.”

Referring to the topic of laundering black money, he said, "Former RAB (police’s elite force) chiefs, police chiefs, and various others are under investigation. But if they pay a 15% tax, no one can question them. Now it is a rule that no one can even question this.”

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