Every year budget comes mainly focusing two areas – revenue and expenditure for the nation. This year no exception has been made in our national budget under the title "Economic Transition and the Future Pathway" which has been prepared in combination with both the present government's past achievements and the current situation arising out of Covid-19. Budget fixes the target of revenue earning while allocating the same on expenditure.
From legal perspective, budget is the biggest legal scheme for the enforcement of the fundamental principles of state policy i.e. for enforcement of the rights of the citizens to food, education, medical treatment, infrastructure development, shelter, occupation, economic life and other basic necessities of life. But this year, to what extent budget could address the need of people for the enforcement of their basic rights during this pandemic is really questionable.
As part of revenue earning, the government keeps the rate of VAT, tax, license fee, renewal fee, revenue, surcharge, duty and other charges almost same. This is not which is required right now for tackling the present pandemic crisis where people are starving, depriving of medical treatment, losing their jobs, facing poverty, lack of production, etc. Production class entrepreneurs are facing difficulties in running their industries. Many of them have already been compelled to close down the industries either temporarily or on permanent basis. Many of them are failing either to release their imported goods from the port or to export the already finished goods by paying customs duties, charges or demurrages. It has already caused reduction in investment, production and income. Our overall economic and social life are confronting serious struggle. But very surprisingly, our budget does not address any of these issues.
Instead of setting target for recovering revenues at a higher range than last year, this year our policy makers could take some alternative steps for saving our people, our industry and our life. If the government would declare 'No VAT' upon all the basic commodities, groceries and agro-products for few months that would truly help mass people to meet with their essential commodities at lesser price. It shall not decrease the government revenue rather it will provide incentive and motivation to the people to live up, work more and add value to the nation. If the government would declare tax holiday for all industries for a couple of months, the industries would be able to save those existence. It will help the industries to breathe for few months, manage production for the country, not to un-employ the workers and contribute on the national economy. Releasing of already imported items into Bangladesh at lesser customs rate, duty and other charges or giving them some sort of incentives by installing and using the imported item for flourishing the domestic business and commerce would surely help survival of many promising entrepreneurs. Likewise, giving them installment facility in repaying the charges or duties, or deferring the payment till generation of income would not affect the government treasury in anyway.
Likewise, giving few comforts to the citizens and entrepreneurs would save the entire nation and economy from massive destruction. While people are facing difficulty to manage their food and medical care, the government would frame policy to control the price of daily necessary things, medicines, partial waiver or deferring the rent payment by the tenants to the landlords, make delay in repaying the loans, deferring the installment, relaxing repayment mode and giving incentives to the people will not bring any loss to the government. Rather it will create an example for the entire world to read and re-write budget in a different way, in a most convenient way benefiting the people at large and in a way of ensuring sustainable development of the national economy.
Part II of the Constitution comprises of Articles 8-25 which provide for non-justiciable fundamental principles of state policy. National budget through local budget and development polices and projects are the ways of implementing state policies, thus accomplishing the need of the people at large. Making budget more public benefiting, production friendly, investment promotional and livelihood securing shall not decrease revenue for the government rather makes the relationship between the government and its citizen stronger and sustainable.
THE WRITER IS AN ADVOCATE, SUPREME COURT OF BANGLADESH.