Bring social protection to the fore | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 05, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:35 AM, May 05, 2021

Bring social protection to the fore

Experts say at ICAB-ERF webinar on upcoming budget

The national budget for fiscal 2021-22 should focus on enhancing healthcare, social security, education, and employment in the country while also protecting its industrial units from the Covid-19 fallout, analysts say at a webinar yesterday.

Besides, the provision of stimulus funds for cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises should continue in order to help them weather the current economic crisis, they said.

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Various government officials, economists, businessmen, and researchers participated in the event, styled "Macro Economy: Expectation from National Budget 2021-22", jointly organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) and Economic Reporters Forum (ERF).

Instead of being obsessed with the country's GDP growth, the government should focus on improving the quality of life and public spending on development projects, they added.

"At least 1 per cent of the total allocation for the next budget should be set aside for social safety net programmes," said Masrur Reaz, chairman of the Policy Exchange, a local think tank.

The government should put more focus on ensuring a full economic recovery from Covid-19 and the effective implementation of allocated funds to avoid wastage, according to Nihad Kabir, president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

For instance, even though the garment sector was given a stimulus package, around 8 per cent of its total workforce lost their jobs.

"So, the authorities concerned should find a link between the funds and job protection," he added.

Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said other than increasing the allocation for healthcare, ensuring effective and efficient spending is crucial.

Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said they lost $6 billion worth of business over the last year due to the ongoing pandemic.

"And so, recovery will take much longer than expected," he said while seeking the continuation of government support for the sector.

Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, said Tk 15,000 crore should be allocated for the health sector in the upcoming national budget.

He also urged the government to ensure vaccination for everyone in the country as soon as possible.

Rizwan Rahman, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, demanded that corporate tax be reduced by 2.5 per cent annually for the next three years to make it 25 per cent overall.

"Although it is very necessary, it is also quite difficult to understand whether the tax net has increased or not over the past few years," said Rupali Chowdhury, president of the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Mashiur Rahman, the prime minister's adviser on economic affairs, said non-governmental organisations should play a vital role in healthcare issues.

ICAB President Mhamudul Hasan Khusru, ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy and General Secretary Rashedul Islam also spoke at the event, moderated by Md Humayun Kabir, chairman of TCLC and a former ICAB president.   

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