It is a self-evident but often overlooked fact that the general people who should be the focus of all development activities are often disregarded in the process of planning national development programmes and drawing up of the national budget. This issue was flagged at a convention organised by District Public Policy Forum in the capital recently.
The discussion was appropriately attended by parliamentarians among others who we hope would inculcate the culture of not only planning bottom up but also revisit the entire mechanism of formulating the budget that should be dovetailed to meet the requirements of the development programmes at the grass roots level.
We fully endorse the views of the Deputy Speaker and the politicians from several other parties at the convention, where it was suggested that it is the role of the facilitator that the government should stick to primarily. The opinion and ideas of the local people as well as their requirements ought to given due weightage through pre-budget and pre-programme consultations so that public money is spent on useful development activities.
Admittedly, what we are suggesting will require adjusting our mindset of sticking to the process of centralised planning, where plans are conjured up by people sitting in various offices in Dhaka, with very little knowledge of the actual need of the local people. And in this regard the lead role has to be taken by the finance ministry to get out of the bureaucratic straight jacket.
Admittedly, the government on its part has to look at the issue of budgeting and development with a holistic and countrywide focus to make development more integrated. But thus far it has been a rather exclusivist way of preparing the budget while the preparation of the development programmes had been left to experts exclusively. The necessity to look at the needs of the economically marginalised as well as the ethnic and religious minorities has thus been left unattended in large measure.