Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Sunday said the budget for the fiscal 2021-22 will have increased allocation for health infrastructure in all districts while the government will undertake initiatives to ensure quality health services.
"Allocation will be increased to ensure the necessary health infrastructure at the district level. At the same time, there will be announcements of necessary steps to ensure quality healthcare through proper utilisation of the existing resources in the health sector," he told reporters after a virtual pre-budget meeting with economists.
"We need to make the health sector much bigger. And we need to make sure that the quality of healthcare improves in proportion to the increase in the sector's size.
"Besides, rural infrastructure and agriculture will be given utmost importance in the budget," the minister said.
Replying to a query, Mustafa Kamal said economists had recommended that the size and tenure of Covid-19 incentive packages announced last year be increased for those who did not get benefits under the incentive packages.
"We will inform the prime minister about their recommendations. She will consider those," he added.
Asked if any assistance would be given to the poor during the lockdown, the finance minister said the prime minister herself is taking care of the issue and that she will decide on this matter if she feels it necessary.
The minister further added that the budget for the next financial year would be prepared keeping in view the international situation concerning Covid-19. "We do not know how long this pandemic will last. Therefore, sectors related to the lives and livelihoods of the people will be given importance in the budget."
Economists have recommended adopting an expansionary monetary policy in the ongoing Covid situation. In this context, the finance minister said the government also wants to take steps so that everyone has money.
Mentioning that economists had emphasised increasing the tax-to-GDP ratio, Minister Kamal said, "Our tax-to-GDP ratio would be higher, if tax is imposed on each item. But in many areas we have to waive taxes. For example, we have been offering tax exemptions to various projects including the mega projects. Otherwise, the project costs will increase, which will affect the people."
Noted economists – Dr Rehman Sobhan, Wahiduddin Mahmud, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman, Dr Mohammad Tareq, Ahsan H Mansur, Dr Mustafizur Rahman, Dr Salehuddin Ahmed, Dr Atiur Rahman, and MM Akash, among others – took part in the pre-budget discussion with the finance minister.