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Zakat fund not enticing the rich much

SAJIBUR RAHMAN | May 23, 2020 00:00:00

The state-run Zakat fund has hardly played any role in bringing equality and eradicating poverty in the society as it fails to collect a significant amount of Zakat over the years.

But the country has seen a substantial rise in the number of wealthy and financially-solvent people in the society in recent years.

The Zakat Board collected Tk 21.98 million in the fiscal year (FY) 2004-05 whereas it stood at Tk 52 million as of May this fiscal.

It collected Tk 1.51 million in FY 1982-83 when the fund was set up.

The board also spent about Tk 297.26 million from FY 1982-1983 to May of FY 2019-2020, its data showed.

The number of Zakat beneficiaries reached 904,400 in the country during the period between FY 1982-1983 and FY 2019-2020, the data showed.

The government formed Zakat fund on June 05, 1982 through an ordinance and the fund is operated by the board under Islamic Foundation with an aim to ensure equal distribution of wealth among all and bring equality in society.

Experts observed that the size of the state-run Zakat fund is relatively small despite a significant rise in the number of wealthy and financially able adult Muslims in recent years.

The fund collection by the board is so measly though a tax rebate provision is in place for Zakat payers. This means the board has failed to attract a large number of rich people to give Zakat.

According to the experts, Zakat can also play a role in attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 through public-private partnership initiatives.

As one of the five pillars of Islam, Zakat is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet necessary criteria of wealth.

Dr. Mohammad Harunur Rashid, Director (Add. charge), Zakat Fund Department of the foundation, said many people prefer giving their Zakat to their near and dear ones as per the Islamic rules. So, they cannot deposit their Zakat to the government's fund.

The board is also trying to raise fund and distribute it through direct help from the deputy commissioners (DCs), he told the FE.

The foundation is currently enhancing its publicity through different media and other means to attract the people, he added.

Dr Rashid admitted that the fund could reach bigger size than the existing amount of collection and distribution.

The foundation has recently connected with the country's first crowdfunding digital platform 'EkDesh' aimed at making it easier to provide zakat, he noted.

He said the Zakat distribution system is also better than any other organisations in the country.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Majid, former chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR), told the FE that the foundation has failed to attract people as it shows lack of credibility and trust.

Praising the prolific initiatives of CZM, he said the private organisation officially started its journey in 2008 but it has already been able to raise nearly Tk 500 million as Zakat fund during the time through its unique initiative and attractive schemes.

The government is sacrificing a large amount of revenue by offering tax rebate for Zakat givers; but the fund runs dry for a long time though the number of financially able adult Muslims is increasing for years, he pointed out.

The board should take some good and attractive projects which can attract people to give Zakat to the fund, Dr Majid said.

The board should strengthen its Zakat management and initiate more social welfare project to attain people's trust, the former NBR chief said.

He put emphasis on distributing Zakat to the poor section of the society for small business purposes rather than in the form of small cash or clothes.

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