The BNP has unveiled a budget proposal containing a three-year medium-term recovery plan in addition to the conventional budget, focusing on saving lives and dealing with risks during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
At the BNP chairperson's Gulshan office in the capital on Friday, the party's Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir outlined the 24-point budget, saying its details would be revealed if the government wants.
"After Covid-19 broke out last year, on 4 April we suggested that the government make short-, medium-, and long-term plans to save people's lives and livelihoods, but they paid no heed. A lack of coordination and corruption was rife in pandemic management," he said.
He said an integrated plan based on national unity could have been made.
"Now we are suggesting a new medium-term plan," he said.
Suggesting a 5% allocation each in health, education, and agriculture in the 24-point budget proposal, he said the health sector should get the maximum allocation.
He said the best management has to be ensured to deal with the pandemic and provide Covid-19 treatment simultaneously.
The upcoming budget should save lives and manage risks, he said.
The BNP leader said all new entrepreneurs should be provided with a five-year tax exemption, adding that the expatriates forced to return from abroad amid the pandemic should be given loans from the state exchequer.
He demanded more allocations for the education sector to prevent students from dropping out and give them scholarships, expand technology and higher education, provide financial assistance for educational institutions affected by Covid-19, and develop research and infrastructure.
Strategic measures, such as diversification of agriculture, industries, and services, and technological capability, have to be taken to maintain competitiveness, he said.
He urged the government to protect agriculture and farmers by ensuring a 5% allocation of GDP for this sector.
Fakhrul proposed a 6-7% allocation of GDP under the social security programmes for the unemployed and marginalised people and a Tk15,000 incentive for three months from the state coffers for each of those living from hand to mouth.
He proposed bringing the poor under a protection assistance package by listing the beneficiaries neutrally without considering their party affiliations.
The BNP secretary general proposed forming an agriculture commission, exploring alternative markets for export diversifications, building sufficient specialised hospitals to deal with crises like the ongoing pandemic, and introducing national health cards.
Mentioning that the Bangladesh Bank should be freed from all spheres of influence, he said it has to take various reform measures to revitalise the economy by going beyond the traditional system, if necessary.
He called on the government to form a high-level economic advisory council comprising top economists and monitor inflation strictly.
Unnecessary expenses should be reduced but various development projects have to be implemented to keep the rural economy strong, he said.
He proposed that the Tk50,000 crore allocation being considered for 10 mega projects in the forthcoming budget be distributed among the coronavirus-affected people instead.
Fakhrul claimed that extending the tenures of several projects, such as the Padma bridge, Rooppur nuclear power plant, Rampal and Matarbari power plants, and Payra deep-sea port, involved corruption.
The BNP leader lambasted the government's policy on whitening black money. "The finance minister said this opportunity would prevail as long as there would be undisclosed earnings. We think this is unethical and unjust for law-abiding citizens."
He said the country and the economy need to be freed from the clutches of defaulters and order has to be restored in the banking system.
The demand for Covid-19 vaccines will be there for a long time and the government should not depend on others for this, he said.
He said vaccine procurement should be more transparent and there should be no secret agreement, adding producing vaccines locally will be a permanent solution to the Covid-19 crisis.
Overall, the BNP wants to see the next budget as a pledge to establish an economy that will ensure good governance and accountability as part of future economic strategies, he added.