The proposed budget for FY 2020-21 has failed to create a strong urge to improve the state of the country's water, sanitation and hygiene.
Speakers at a joint press conference, on Sunday, made the remark while noting there is an insufficient allocation for the hygiene sub-sector – which remains a key priority in the fight against Covid-19 and maintaining progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals that will otherwise be hindered.
Speakers at the press conference – jointly held by WaterAid, UNICEF, the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), FANSA-BD, WSSCC, FSM Network, Sanitation and Water for All, and the WASH Alliance – further said that the country is passing through an extraordinary period tackling the novel coronavirus pandemic.
At a time like this, budget formulation in the face of declining rates of GDP growth, revenues, international trade and external remittances makes it a challenge to support growing demand for healthcare and hygiene awareness activities in order to fight Covid-19.
An upfront and realistic budget reflecting economic and financial costs of the pandemic is needed, reflecting the government's approach to not only fight the virus but also contain the loss of lives and livelihoods.
"The proposed national budget of FY 2020-21 is falling short in meeting the ground-level realities," they said.
The study, that was presented at the press conference, reflected the proposed national budget's allocation for WASH by PPRC.
It reflected steady growth and an upward trend in the WASH budget allocation, which is praiseworthy with Tk122.27 billion allocated in FY20-21 from 107.96 billion last year.
Following the legacy of previous years, the low attention to hygiene is also notable in the FY2020-21 budget with a less than five percent allocation in the hygiene sub-sector of the WASH budget.
Meanwhile, budget distribution remained skewed toward urban areas.
Spatial inequities between urban and rural areas, the four WASAs and 11 city corporations, remain constant as cities and towns continue to receive most of the funding at the expense of rural, char and hard-to-reach areas, despite acute needs.
The analysis reflects the gap of deliveries between urban and rural areas widening over the years, revealing that in five years' period, there happens to be almost no change in shares of urban (80 - 83 percent) and rural (20 - 17 percent) allocations.
In the press release, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, an eminent economist, recommended the immediate realisation of the recommendations made by the network earlier this month – along with prioritising hygiene as a vital tool of public health and pandemic preparedness.
He also suggested investing in a large-scale nationwide hygiene campaign and installing public handwashing points with soap and water.
Meanwhile, Country Director of WaterAid Hasin Jahan suggested the block fund kept in the health budget of Tk100 billion be used for the immediate implementation of handwashing stations across Dhaka city, and slum areas, so that it can provide hygiene facilities for the poor to fight Covid-19.