SUPRO organized a national level post-budget seminar on June 11, 2014 at AS Mahmud Seminar Hall, Daily Star Building in the capital city which was presided over its Executive Committee member M.A. Quader, whereas Alison Subrata Baroi Director of SUPRO delivered his welcome speech. A position paper analyzing the 2014-15 budget and compiling grassroots demands of 45 districts was presented in the seminar by SUPRO Campaign Coordinator Shakera Nahar.
In this post-budget seminar, Mr. Mostafizur Rahman (MP), Primary and Mass Education Minister delivered speech as the Chief Guest; Professor Ali Ashraf (MP), President of the parliamentary standing committee on commerce.; Mr. Abdul Mannan , Former State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism, Mr. Dhana Ranjan Tripura, Policy and Campaign Officer, Oxfam attended there as special guests. Mr. Rashed AL Mahmud Titumir, Chairman, Unnayan Onneshon attended as the Key discussant.
Mr.Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir said this budget is being presented to please handful of people and deprive a large number of people. Urging for a change in the budget formulation process, he said if people are not attached with the process it cannot be called people's budget. He said the finance minister should have imposed inheritance tax to boost collection, as the value of property has skyrocket in the country. He criticized the social safety net projects, saying the state has taken up those programmes in order to purposefully exclude some people.“If the allocations under the safety net programmes are added together and distributed among all the poor people, there will be no poverty in the country.”
Mr. Dhana Ranjan Tripura said the process of budget formulation in Bangladesh is very much centralized. So it is essential to reform the too much centralized budget structure to make national budget pro people. Indirect tax has been increased which will negatively effect the lives of the poor people. So direct tax dependent income tax should be ensured.
Mr. Abdul Mannan said a budget can only be called national budget if it reflects national interests and aspirations, budget is now being formulated through a top-down process, but it should be prepared through a bottom-to-top process so that people's needs and thoughts can be reflected in it. He said, irrespective of parties in power, the budget should be pro-people and coordinated, while lamenting the cut in allocation for agriculture sector. He said that allocation should be increase at Primary and Mass Education sector. He also mentions that SUPRO has obtained a imperative position to introduce District budget and he urged SUPRO to monitor and evaluate budget implementation round the year.
Professor Ali Ashraf said if people are brought under tax net as much as possible they would act responsibly. Replying to criticisms over bureaucratic budget, he said each and every part of the state machinery is responsible to the people of Bangladesh, as per the constitution."Strong bureaucracy means strong democracy," he said. He also blamed people for not voting the right representatives to hold responsible for the people-friendly budget. Relating to education budget, he said education is now a high-priced product. Commercialization of education should be stopped, but not its privatization. He said the existing education infrastructure is not properly utilized for the lack of motivation and awareness. He also said the bureaucracy has to be strengthened in order to implement the Annual Development Programme (ADP).
Mr Mostafizur Rahman said, “The quality of bureaucrats has deteriorated—it is a bad sign and the government is failing in its efforts to clamp down on mighty tax dodgers. He said, “Who dodges tax? The people who can control both the ruling and opposition parties. The public are not able to establish control over them.” He said the Awami League, BNP or their allies never debate over cutting the hefty non-development expenditure. “The non-development budget has come to this stage for those who are evading the taxes and the people who are helping them evade tax.” The government plan to award a new payscale to public servants also drew criticism from the minister. “BNP may even say that if they come to power they will provide two payscales to government employees, even if they are not mentioned in the election manifesto. The perception is they [the government officials] bring us to power—all problems lie here.” He said he does not think the government takes up any project for any bad intention. “If the reliance on the implementers deepens in the project execution stage, then you will not get the desired results.”
NC member Shamima Akter Moonmoon, Sharifa Khatun, Nirmal Bhattachaiya , Manju Rani Pramanik, Motiur Rahman, District Secretary of SUPRO Mainul Ahsan Munna, Md. Zillur Rahman Khandakar, representatives from Jessor, Student Wings(DU), Bachte Sikho Nari,PADAKHEP ,BRAC, Steps Towards Development also participated in the open discussion session.
SUPRO Budget Demand at a Glance for 2014-15:
- Direct tax dependent income tax structure should be established, not the indirect tax; rights on essential services should be ensured against the income tax; the daily needs should be tax free and pro-poor tax structure should be established.
- District Budget rules and regulations should be taken into system; district budget rules and regulations should be made and established by establishing the Zila Parishad.
- Reducing dependency on external loan and mobilizing internal resource
- More allocation for essential services including education, health, agriculture and social safety net program Implementable budget and proper implementation of approved budget