Review vaccination roadmap for faster economic recovery: experts
Various experts yesterday stressed the need to review the vaccination roadmap to bring most of the population under its coverage in the shortest possible time as mass inoculation is the only way to get rid of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
If the country cannot be fully vaccinated, it will face global restrictions that would hamper the country's foreign trade as well as economic recovery, they said.
These comments came at a webinar styled, "Reflections on the Budget 2021-22", jointly organised by Economic Reporters Forum (ERF), Research Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) and The Asia Foundation (TAF).
ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy chaired the event, which was moderated by ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam.
Mentioning that vaccination should become the most important issue, Md Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said major export destinations such as the US and EU are undergoing mass inoculations.
"If we lag behind in this respect, our exports may face dire consequences," he added.
Hailing the proposal to reduce corporate tax in the proposed national budget, he demanded the complete withdrawal of advance income tax (AIT) and advance trade value added tax (ATV), which he claimed increases the cost of doing business. The FBCCI president also said income tax and VAT offices should be set up at the upazila level in order to widen the tax net.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), called for simplifying the tax procedures to save time and improve the ease of doing business.
The BGMEA leader also sought for incentives for non-cotton garment factories so that they can flourish and create more employment opportunities.
Citing that different development projects are being taken for political reasons, Hassan emphasised the need to allocate enough funds for the ongoing mega projects to complete them in a timely manner without taking on any new projects considering the low revenue amid the pandemic
RAPID Chairman Mohammad Abdur Razzaque said the proposed budget failed to properly address two particular sectors -- health and social security -- as these require more importance in this pandemic situation.
Citing that the roadmap in the proposed budget to vaccinate 80 per cent of the population in four years needs to be reviewed, Razzaque said, adding that steps should be taken to locally produce vaccines.
In his keynote speech, RAPID Executive Director M Abu Eusuf said the allocation for the health sector in the proposed budget does not reflect the 8th five-year plan that mentioned an allocation of 2 per cent of the GDP for the sector.
He went on to say that the allocation for social protection has been increased but there are concerns that about 40 per cent of the social safety net budget is spent on pension payments for retired government employees, interest subsidies and agricultural subsidies.
The Tk 7,300 crore kept aside in the proposed budget as funds to combat the coronavirus outbreak could be spent on the new poor and the pandemic-hit informal sector workers, he added.
Although different organisations have conducted studies on the new poor, he urged the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) to find out actually how many people become poor due to the pandemic.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said there is confusion about the actual figure of new poor as it varies from study to study.
"But whatever the number is, they are not forgotten," he said, adding that the government would surely take the necessary steps to help them.