The Padma bridge project and completion of four-lane Dhaka-Chittagong highway will get the highest priority in the upcoming national budget, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said yesterday.
“We will consider the Padma bridge and Dhaka-Chittagong highway as the mega projects in the upcoming budget,” Muhith said at a pre-budget discussion organised by private TV station ntv at the capital's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel.
He also gave out the size of the budget for fiscal 2014-15, which is likely to be Tk 250,000 crore.
“The next budget is a challenge for the government. We need a quantum jump in GDP growth, which has been hovering around 6 percent for many years now, the lowest in regional comparison.”
He said the budgetary allocation would be decentralised and broader reforms in administration will be introduced.
“We need to take risks for increasing investment by private entrepreneurs. It is a puzzle why private investment is not rising, although public investment went up in the country. Many said there are some uncertainties over private investment -- we also need to overcome them.”
For attracting private investment, the government has also been working to develop seven special economic zones, as the land is considered as one of the major obstacles for private investment, the finance minister added.
The upcoming budget will be investment and business friendly, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said.
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said higher private sector investment is imperative to come out from the GDP growth limbo of 6 percent, and for that, enhancement of infrastructure is needed.
He said it will take $60-$80 billion of investment in infrastructure in the next 10 years to hit the expected level of economic development.
“I expect the government will continue with the implementation of projects taken up in the earlier budgets.”
Rahman also suggested the government extend financial support to small and medium industries, as those faced severe hardship during the political crises last year.
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, called for assessing the quality of public sector projects.
AB Mirza Azizul Islam, a former finance adviser to a caretaker government, termed the budget to be too ambitious. The perfect size of the budget should be around Tk 234,900 crore, he said.
He also recommended the government finalise the coal policy to remove the problem of primary source of power production.
“The biggest challenge for private sector investment is the scarcity of land. The government must launch the seven special economic zones as soon as possible,” said Salman F Rahman, a former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Osman Faruk, a former education minister and currently an adviser to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, advised the government to import power from Myanmar and Nepal to reduce the power crisis.
The government should also improve the approach roads to the Chittagong port for smooth transportation of vehicles, he added.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the government to resume gas connections to the industries, suspended in the port city since 2008.
Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, demanded duty waiver on import of prefabricated building materials as many garment makers need to relocate factories to new sites for safety reasons.
Former commerce minister GM Quader called upon the government to bring in more investment in the country's northern region, which has a large pool of unemployed people.
Nuran Nabi, a non-resident Bangladeshi and a director of NRB Commercial Bank, urged the government to reduce corruption in project implementation.
“We want safety and security of our investment in Bangladesh,” he said through video conferencing from the New York studio of ntv.
FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed moderated the discussion.