Business leaders yesterday urged the government to expand the size of its stimulus packages as trade and economic activities continue to suffer amid the ongoing onslaught of Covid-19.
Entrepreneurs also asked for necessary steps to be taken to ensure that small and medium enterprises easily get loans from the stimulus packages.
These pleas were made at a virtual discussion with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.
The meeting was attended by the leaders of 12 trade bodies, including the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
The finance ministry organised the event to know the views and recommendations of entrepreneurs ahead of formulating budgetary measures for fiscal year 2021-22, which begins in July.
At a virtual press briefing after the meeting, Kamal said that businesses also demanded an increase in the size of stimulus funds for some sectors.
Suggestions also came for the inclusion of some new sectors in the stimulus fund.
Since coronavirus was first detected in Bangladesh in March last year, the government has announced Tk 124,000 crore stimulus funds for 23 sectors, mainly large businesses, exporters, small and medium enterprises, farmers, micro business and low-income people.
Of the amount, banks have been given the responsibility to distribute more than Tk 80,000 crore in the form of soft loans. The total package accounts for more than 4 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.
Kamal said it depends on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina whether the government would extend the time frame for businesses to avail funds from the stimulus.
He also said that the premier took all the decisions of announcing stimulus packages last year.
"We only implemented those on her behalf," he said, adding that the prime minister might consider if there is any scope to widen the coverage of stimulus and extend the period for businesses to access the low-cost fund.
The finance minister went on to say that there was no discussion in the meeting yesterday about whitening black money.
In reply to a query, Kamal said the main objective of the next national budget would be to expand the country's industrialisation and economic development.
"We have an objective for revenue generation but we also should be careful so that such revenue generation does not affect people," he said.
Expansion of industries will facilitate the growth of employment opportunities and subsequently, it would help generate more revenue, the finance minister added.
A participant of the meeting said business leaders also urged the government to ease the process and reduce the cost of doing business in the country.
Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Mahbubul Alam told The Daily Star that he proposed an additional allocation in the budget to expedite the implementation of the Bay Terminal project.
Once complete, the Bay Terminal project would enhance the capacity of Chattogram port, which handles nearly 90 per cent of Bangladesh's seaborne trade.
Profitable concerns of a business house are usually barred from getting funds from banks in case of loan default by one or two concerns of that group.
As a result, profitable concerns suffer from fund shortage and eventually, the whole business house soon becomes a loan defaulter, Alam said while suggesting an amendment to the law so that profitable entities of a group can get loans even if their sister concerns have become defaulters.