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Focus on banking sector reform, curbing unemployment

Experts urge Muhith at pre-budget parley

FE Report | March 13, 2018 00:00:00

Economists and professionals suggested the government on Monday to highlight unemployment problem and to bring the banking sector under reform in the upcoming national budget.

They also proposed to curb loan default trend in the election year and to impose penalty for time and cost overrun of the government's development projects.

The proposals were placed in a pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister A M A Muhith at National Economic Council (NEC) in the capital.

Responding to the proposals, the finance minister said the government would consider incorporating a provision of penalty in the upcoming budget for time and cost overrun of the development projects. He also vowed to curb the loan default culture.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan suggested imposition of penalty for cost and time overrun of the development projects, focusing it as a major problem.

He also recommended bringing qualitative change in economic management along with taking strict measures against loan default.

"Bank default culture has been internalised into the business model of businesses, and they are also getting rescheduled facility."

The Parliament should follow up the loan rescheduling during the election period, as the defaulters get chance to contest in the election through rescheduling their loans, he also said.

An alternative institutional arrangement is needed for long-term investment financing for the capital market, he noted.

Md Matiul Islam, first finance secretary of Bangladesh, suggested exploring the possibility of increasing Advance Deposit Ratio (ADR) limit for the commercial banks considering their ongoing liquidity crisis.

Responding to the proposals, the finance minister said the Bangladesh Bank has already abandoned the measure regarding tightening the ADR limit.

However, the message is yet to be reflected in the capital market. He guessed that some people are trying to catch fish in troubled waters.

He also criticised Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) for its role regarding selection of a strategic partner from two consortiums of China and India.

A solution to the problem will come by Thursday after the Prime Minister returns home, he hoped.

M Syeduzzaman, former finance minister, urged the government to address the unemployment problem in the upcoming budget with effective fiscal measures.

He also suggested effective monitoring of the infrastructure projects, particularly on roads and highways, and ensuring quality of those projects.

Bangladesh Bank (BB) former governor Dr Mohammed Farashuddin said the correct unemployment scenario can be explored by the government by running a project.He said the government can encourage mega-size textile industries in the special economic zones.

Dr Farashudin also criticised the role of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) for its failure in relocating the leather industries at the right time.

He suggested the government to focus on merger of banks.

Former finance secretary Dr Mohammad Tarek emphasised strengthening Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) for making real data available.

Dr Fahmida Khatun, Research Director and Head of Research at CPD, said the government needs preparedness on Rohinga issue, as the donors' funds will not be available for a longer period.

She also questioned the constant recapitulation of the state-owned banks and suggested to let the problem-ridden banks die.

"How long will the government use (allocate) the public money for such irregularities?"

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director of CPD, said discipline of the budget gets disrupted due to sharp cut in revenue target after the budget.

He also suggested minimising the differences of revenue collection data of National Board of Revenue (NBR) and IVAS system of Ministry of Finance.

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguish Fellow of CPD, proposed to bring the private development organisations under the government's financing network, as the donors' funding is gradually declining with the country's upliftment from the LDC status.

Other proposals of the economists and professionals include tax adjustment from future tax years, increase in number of VAT returns, considering tax exemption on gross income, facilitating e-commerce, focusing on technical education, reining in fast growth of private universities, and strengthening Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) etc.

They also urged the government to maintain discipline of the budget, get prepared for carrying out additional expenditures of the Rohingyas, ensure technological upgradation of female workforce, and opt for educational and health sector reforms.

In the meeting, Mr Muhith said the probable size of the budget for the next fiscal year, 2018-2019, might be Tk 4.75 trillion with the highest allocation for transportation and energy sectors.

The budget proposals will be placed before parliament on June 07, the first Thursday of the month, and the Parliament will pass the budget on June 30, he added.

Among others, Dhaka University teacher and former chairman of Agrani Bank Limited Khandaker Bazlul Haque, and former finance secretary Siddiqur Rahman also spoke on the occasion.

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