Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has cautiously lauded the government for not re-announcing the advantage to legalise black money from undisclosed funds in the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021-22.
Besides, this advantage – which is unconstitutional and discriminatory to honest taxpayers – should not be included in the Income Tax Ordinance in any way.
TIB is concerned that the allocations to emergency sectors, such as the health sector to control Covid-19, have been increased, but there is a lack of a clear roadmap to ensure transparency and prevention of corruption in the overall budget implementation.
In a statement issued on Thursday, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said that despite strong objections and protests from all quarters, the finance minister decided to legalise black money in the current budget, which has not been in the new budget and can be considered as an insight of the government.
"In this case, we believe that the authorities will not continue this unethical advantage in the end by undermining the legal status of the Income Tax Ordinance or under the pressure of vested interests, and respecting the prime minister's statement of 'zero-tolerance against corruption," he added.
Calling for an all-inclusive, participatory and life-saving budget during the Covid-19 period, Dr Zaman said that the proposed budget for 2021-22 would increase the allocation to the health sector to Tk33,000 crore (about 7% of the total budget) which is less than the required amount.
According to the latest data from the World Health Organisation, the cost of medical care of a patient in Bangladesh is 74% as against the government's cost of 26%, which is a shame for the country as a signatory to the UN Universal Declaration of Health.
Again, due to persistent corruption and lack of fair spending capacity, there is a strong risk that this allocation will not be spent properly, from which there is no clear roadmap in the budget, which is disappointing. However, there is no alternative to curb the unimaginable and skyrocketing corruption in the health sector in recent years.
While applauding the government's allocation of Tk10,000 crore for Covid-19 and vaccination activities to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in the country, Dr Zaman said, "The allocation to curb Covid-19 is not adequate. In this case, the process of spending money should be done with transparency and it should be ensured that corruption in the health sector does not take advantage of it in any way. Similarly, the government is expected to follow a transparent procurement process and prioritise the public interest in procuring the Covid-19 vaccine."
Dr Zaman also said that the 10-year tax rebate to expand the scope of hospital services outside the city is a timely decision, which would create opportunities to ensure quality healthcare in rural areas.
Expressing concern over the allocation of about 60% of the total budget for the underdeveloped sector in the proposed budget, Dr Zaman said that in terms of the total allocation, public administration received the fourth highest allocation (7.6%) and after adding the defence expenditure, the amount goes beyond 14%.
Zaman also said that although the allocation has been increased year by year, the lack of effective strategies to ensure transparency and accountability and to develop public administration's efficiency is disappointing. At the same time, bringing no transparency in the procurement process in the defence sector is just a sign of utter negligence to ensuring good governance.
"Above all, I urge the government to ensure absolute transparency, accountability and strict integrity in the implementation of the budget, especially in all types of expenditure, including public procurement," he added.