- Increased allocations to address pandemic fallouts
- Introduction of credit card for students
- Cross-check of market prices of fertiliser and seeds
- Support for social-media-based female entrepreneurs
- Introduction of health cards for the workers
The Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh has urged the government to provide Tk1,000 as social safety allowance to unemployed youths and poor people to help them survive amid the rising inflationary pressure and recover from Covid-induced fallouts.
"The current per head allowance of Tk400-500 to the poor people is not helping them much and the amount is not rational in comparison with the increased per capita income," said Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the platform, while addressing a press conference at the CIRDAP Auditorium in the capital on Monday.
Debapriya recommended the introduction of an unemployment allowance of Tk1,000 per head monthly and called for bringing at least 10% (around 6.69 lakh) of the country's unemployed youths under the safety net initiative.
While presenting a study report on the current economic situation, upcoming budget and perspective of the "left behind" communities, he said the government will have to allocate some Tk5,863 crore more for FY2022-23 to ensure the minimum Tk1,000 allowance for the financially insolvent.
"Bangladesh's economy is yet to go back to its pre-pandemic level while the Russia-Ukraine War, supply chain dislocation, and rising commodity prices among other factors have made the situation worse," he said, adding that Bangladesh never saw so much economic pressure since 2007-08.
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, a core group member of the Platform, presided over the function, in which Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, and Tony Michael Gomes, director of World Vision, were present, among others.
"The government is formulating the budget at a time when the country is suffering from an unprecedented pressure of commodity price hikes even before the recovery of the pandemic. So, ensuring relief for the poor through checking commodity prices and restructuring the subsidy system should be a top priority now," Mustafizur Rahman said.
He further added that economic progress is always considered on the basis of average achievement, where important issues like distribution, fairness and inequality remain neglected.
Debapriya said, "Our savings are declining." Even in the pandemic-hit year of 2020, the savings was 31.42% of the GDP, which dropped to 30.79% the next year.
This year it has further dropped to 25.45%, which means people are struggling to save money due to financial hardship, he added.
He suggested that the tax-free income threshold at the individual level should be set at Tk3.5 lakh in the upcoming budget, while women and other disadvantaged groups may be given further leeway.
Describing the rising inflation as a new challenge for the economy, he said the government was talking about 6.22% inflation, but this was not at all consistent with reality. In such a situation, he suggested the government revisit bank interest rates.
"If the interest rates are not changed keeping pace with inflation rates and exchange rate of currency, the order of the economy will be hampered."
The government believes if the interest rates remain low, the flow of investment will increase. "But lowering interest rates failed to increase investment in the last few years."
"Although GDP growth is substantial now, we could not go back to the pre-pandemic level in terms of investment," he pointed out.
On employment status, Debapriya said large industries grew 13% in the current fiscal year, whereas small and medium industries grew only 11%. "Although small industries generate higher employment, their growth is comparatively lower."
In the upcoming budget, he suggested, necessary initiatives should be taken to increase employment through increased investment. The economist also recommended increasing allocations for human resource development sectors such as education, health and social security, as well as speeding up implementation.