Mahbubul Alam is the president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI). He is also the vice-president of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bengal Commercial Bank, a member of the governing body of the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority and an executive board member of the Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute. He is also the president of Khatunganj Trade and Industries Association and the general secretary of Chittagong University Alumni Association.
In an exclusive interview with The Business Standard, Mahbubul Alam has shared his thoughts on this year's budget which expected to be placed before the parliament on Thursday.
The Business Standard (TBS): Which sectors in Chattogram should be given priority in this year's budget?
Mahbubul Alam: All projects including the Chattogram waterlogging mitigation project, Bay Terminal and Karnafuli Tunnel need to be implemented expeditiously. If these projects are implemented, the country's economy will be more dynamic. The economic instability created by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis will also be reduced considerably.
TBS: What do you expect for Chattogram businessmen from the budget?
Mahbubul Alam: Everyone should get the incentives announced by the government for the marginal, medium and small and big businessmen with clear instructions. These incentives are not a favour, these are the right of traders. They will be more dynamic if they get these incentives.
TBS: Apart from the megaprojects, which sector should get priority?
Mahbubul Alam: The health sector should be given priority. In proportion to the population of Chattogram, the number of ICU beds is very inadequate. Besides, I demand a special allocation for launching new medical services in the Chittagong Medical University.
TBS: Unemployment rate is on rise in the country amid the current pandemic situation. How can this problem be addressed?
Mahbubul Alam: It is necessary to focus on increasing employment opportunities by implementing Mirsarai Economic Zone project soon. Besides, announcement and implementation of a proper stimulus package for all businessmen can stop layoffs being taking place at present.
TBS: Has the CCCI made any proposal regarding this year's budget?
Mahbubul Alam: Like every year, the CCCI has sent a 246-point proposal, including 158 points related to tariffs, 53 in income tax and 36 in VAT, to the National Board of Revenue.
TBS: Which aspect has been given special importance in the proposal?
Mahbubul Alam: The government changes its policy from time to time in the field of trade and commerce, investment, import-export, etc. To make these activities sustainable, practical situations have to be considered in formulating policies. It is not possible to be profitable as soon as you start a business. In this case, time is required to promote and market the product.
At the same time, investment especially in setting up factories, import of capital machinery, testing, the connection of necessary services like electricity, gas, water, etc is quite time-consuming. Then, the production has to be started by initial and experimental production, quality improvement and marketing of the right product. By completing these processes an industry can start production.
Entrepreneurs set up industries with loans of hundreds of crores of taka to create employment, reduce dependence on foreign products and accelerate economic progress through the production of domestic products. These initiatives can never be profitable or sustainable unless a reasonable exemption from tariffs is given for a certain period.
Therefore, to increase trade, import, export and investment in the country, it is necessary to formulate far-sighted and long-term policies in this regard. And, I hope the government will present a long-term business policy in this year's budget.
TBS: Thank you for taking the time.
Mahbubul Alam: Thank you too