Dr Atiur Rahman said, ‘The new budget has to be a life-saving budget, a budget for existence’
Around 33.9 percent of the respondents in a survey said that the reflections of people's expectations remain completely absent in Bangladesh's budgets while 54.6 percent of them think that the reflection level is very low.
According to an opinion survey conducted by Democratic Budget Movement (DBM) in association with ActionAid Bangladesh, 31 percent of respondents think that public opinion is not taken into consideration at all before the formulation of budgets.
The findings were made public at a virtual "peoples budget assembly 2020" organised by DBM on Wednesday.
The respondents, 411 in all, were from all eight divisions of the country, but mostly from Dhaka. Among them, 31 percent were women and the remaining 69 percent were men. Their knowledge of the budget was a factor in their being part of the survey, which was conducted in the period May 24-30 this year.
Some 55.6 percent of people think that the current budget allocation for the health sector is not adequate. That is why the general masses have not been getting benefits from it.
"We are in a Third World War now, and our focus is on controlling the coronavirus. We have seen the fragile condition of our health sector during Covid-19. The strategy of the upcoming budget should focus on a process of how we will ensure health services for all," said Dr Atiur Rahman, a former governor of the Bangladesh Bank.
Speaking as a panelist on the programme, he said, "We are looking at what kind of instructions will be given for the survival of the people in this budget. It should be a life-saving budget, a budget for existence."
Suggesting double the allocation compared to that in the previous year for the health sector in the new budget, the eminent economist said, "The major allocation should be for buying machinery and recruiting technicians, doctors and nurses."
"The allocated funds cannot be used properly in the health sector due to corruption and misuse or mismanagement," he added.
Around 86 percent of respondents in the survey said that the budget allocation has to be increased in the social safety net this year.
The top three priority sectors should be agriculture, health, education and technology in the next budget, the respondents opined.
The highest interest rate should be 2 percent for agri-entrepreneurs in the incentives declared for the farm sector, according to 40.7 percent of the respondents.
Around 66.4 percent of respondents think that the interests of farmers need to be focused in the budget.
"We have to ensure social safety nets in the upcoming budget," said Dr Atiur Rahman.
He suggests incentives for farmers in the upcoming budget. "We should allocate Tk1,000 per farmer in the next budget as an incentive for the community. It may be a token of recognition of the contributions our farmers make to the economy."
"We should formulate a pension scheme for labourers. We can start it from garments workers in this budget," said Dr Atiur.
He also emphasised the diversification of economic activities and employment generation.
"There should be guidelines in the next budget on the implementation of the declared stimulus packages," he added.
He said that there should be a statement on what has been fulfilled from the previous budget and what initiatives have been included in the new budget in line with public expectations.
According to the respondents, the top three priorities for day labourers and their families are introducing a rationing system, introducing labourer bonds and day labourer registration.
Some 80 percent of the people opined that the national budget should be formulated on the basis of the district budget.
Around 78 percent think that women's development should be a separate sector in the budget, with separate allocations for it.
According to the lawmaker Fazle Hossain Badsha, "We do not need any new mega project at this moment. And the mega projects should be slowed down."
Around 28 percent of the respondents think that the opinion of some special class or group, which is economically strong, is taken in budget formulation.
Besides, only 9.5 percent think that there has been a reflection of people's expectations in the budget.
Eminent economist Dr Atiur Rahman focused on a nature-friendly budget, saying, "A separate allocation should be kept in this budget for people affected by Cyclone Amphan."
Among others, Sormindo Nilormi, teacher of economics at Jahangirnagar University, and Asgar Ali, director of ActionAid, spoke at the event.
Monower Mostafa, general secretary of DBM, presided over the session, which was moderated by Aamanur Rahman of DBM. Sekender Ali Mian, joint secretary of DBM, presented the findings of the survey.