Unnayan Shamannay has proposed prioritising health, agriculture, the social safety net, education, and employment in the upcoming budget – to overcome the socioeconomic effects of the deadly novel coronavirus.
Expenditures will have to be lowered in unproductive sectors. Allocations should be raised for areas that will soon bring the economy back on track, it recommended.
The think-tank made the proposals at an online briefing titled "Covid-19: Present Context and Budget for FY2020-21" in Dhaka on Tuesday.
Emeritus Fellow Khondoker Shakhawat Ali, Unnayan Shamannay's chairman and former Central Bank governor Dr Atiur Rahman presented the keynote paper at the pre-budget online seminar.
Considering the particularly adverse financial conditions that cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises are facing, Unnayan Shamannay proposed raising the tax-exempt yearly turnover limit for them from Tk50 lakh to Tk1 crore for fiscal year 2020-21.
Talking about the health sector, Dr Atiur Rahman said, "The share of the health budget as a percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] should be raised to two to three percent next fiscal year."
"The budget allocation for the health sector is 0.9 percent of GDP here, which is two percent in India," he added.
"The agriculture sector should be prioritised in the national budget for FY21," said Atiur Rahman.
A vibrant agriculture sector will also support employment opportunities for people who are likely to lose jobs and livelihood opportunities in urban and peri-urban informal sectors – plus for migrant workers who have been forced to return home.
"The national budget for FY2021 should focus on social safety net programmes and related activities," said Dr Nazneen Ahmed senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
Dr Taiabur Rahman, professor of Development Studies at Dhaka University, said the budget allocations – including the incentive packages announced by the government – need to be spent efficiently so that they reach the people in real need.
As panel discussants, Dr Arup Choudhury, chief executive officer at Acasia Global Consultants, Kolkata, Mahfuzur Rahman, former executive director of the Bangladesh Bank, participated – along with university teachers and students, researchers, development workers, plus media professionals – in the programme.