Since the vulnerability of the country's health system has been exposed by the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic, economists have been calling for an increased allocation for the health sector. They have also emphasised extending the allocation for the agriculture sector to secure food safety amid fears of a global food crisis.
Even during a national crisis, the health and agriculture sectors have not been given due importance while making allocations in the Annual Development Programme (ADP). In terms of priority in allocations in the new ADP, the two sectors stood seventh and eight respectively.
The National Economic Council (NEC) yesterday approved ADP amounting to Tk205,145 crore for the next fiscal year.
Asked about the formulation of the ADP in a traditional manner through ignoring the health and agriculture sectors, Planning Minister MA Mannan, after the meeting, said at a press briefing, "The allocations have been made by considering the spending capacity of the ministries. There is no scope to allocate more than what is required by the ministries concerned."
Through a videoconference from her office, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chaired the meeting at the NEC Auditorium in the city.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal and MA Mannan were present at the prime minister's office during the meeting.
Ministers from different ministries involved in the fight against the coronavirus including health, agriculture, education, information, relief and disaster management, social welfare and local government were present at the NEC auditorium.
At the press briefing, the planning minister said in the new ADP, Tk134,643 crore has been allocated from the government's own fund and Tk70,502 crore from foreign sources as project aid.
Additionally, autonomous organisations will spend Tk9,466 crore from their own funds to implement their own projects. In total, the upcoming ADP will be of Tk214,611 crore.
Analysing the trend of the last few years, it is evident that the transport sector, physical planning, water supply and housing and power have been receiving the highest allocations in the ADP.
In the upcoming fiscal year, the highest amount of Tk52,183 crore has been allocated to the transport sector, which is 25.44 percent of the total ADP. Physical planning, water supply and housing received the second highest allocation of Tk25,795, followed by the power sector, which got Tk24,804 crore.
Queuing up behind education and religious affairs; science, information and communication technology and rural development and rural institutions, the health, nutrition, population and family welfare sector has received the seventh highest allocation of Tk13,033 crore. Agriculture stood eighth with an allocation of Tk8382 crore.
According to information available with the Planning Commission, the allocation for health sector was Tk13,055 crore in the current ADP, which has been revised down to Tk10,108 crore.
Though the allocation for health in the new ADP is Tk22 crore less than the original ADP of the current fiscal year, it is Tk2,925 crore or 28.94 percent higher than the revised ADP.
On the other hand, the allocation for the agriculture sector has been revised down to Tk7616 crore from the original amount of Tk8382 crore in the current fiscal year. The allocation in this sector has increased by Tk766 crore from the original ADP of the current fiscal year and Tk1758 from the revised amount.
Dr Zahid Hussain, former lead economist at the World Bank's Dhaka office, said, "This year the highest allocation was expected for the health sector considering the importance of the tests of coronavirus patients, their treatment, training for physicians and other healthcare workers and treatment of non-Covid-19 patients."
A lot of money is required in the social safety net sector to ensure financial and development assistance for jobless people. It is important to increase allocation to the agriculture sector considering the global food crisis. Allocation also has to be increased for education in the interest of developing skilled manpower.
Posing a question, he said, "When will the time come if priorities cannot be reset by breaking with tradition during such a crisis as the one we are now going through?
He expressed his disappointment at the ADP being prepared within a set routine work even during the current national crisis.
An analysis of ministry-wise allocations shows that the local government division got an allocation of Tk31,131 crore, road transport and highways division Tk24,825 crore and power division Tk24,803 crore.
At the press briefing, MA Mannan said there is a requirement of funds to ensure allocations for ongoing mega projects. The finance ministry has set the size of the ADP.
"It is not possible to increase the allocation for any ministry overnight. Allocations are made as per demand from the sectors concerned. We have to consider their capacity before making an allocation," he added.
However, he said quick approval will be given if any project is envisaged for important sectors like health and agriculture. He said there are instructions from the prime minister in this regard.
Stack of projects
The new ADP has a total of 1673 projects --- 1456 are investment projects, 127 related to technical assistance, 1 from Japan Debt Cancelling Fund (JDCF) and another 89 from projects of autonomous institutions.
The new ADP will involve 122 projects which are to be identified by June this year. Some 443 projects will expire at the same time.
Some 1347 unapproved projects have been included in the ADP without allocation. Another 96 projects are also being included on the basis of an exploration of prospects of foreign assistance.
The new ADP also focuses on 61 projects to be implemented under Public Private Partnership (PPP).