Mohammad Zobair Hasan, Director (Research), DORP and CSO Steering Committee Member -South Asia, Sanitation Water for All (SWA).
The budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 has been prepared and announced with a view to tackling an invisible disaster. “what will happen?” is the burning question to everyone. This time, a new budget of 5 lakh 8 thousand crore has been presented in the parliament. After the introductory speech of the Finance Minister, the budget was presented within 30 minutes through the documentary and power point prepared by the Ministry of Finance. My guess is, everyone’s main focus was on the health budget. What is the current health budget? How much allocation is for the hospital including mask, PPE etc. Since the budget is a numerical annual plan of the government, but this time around all the allocation sector has been seen to focus on self-defense from the invisible life-threatening disease Kovid-19.
This year’s budget is the highest budget compared to last year`s! But if we calculate per capita, the annual allocation for each of the 160 million people in the country is only 35,500 rupees. Although our budget is not man-centered, it either determines the government’s expenditure, or in other words, what the cost will be or formulates the project. Since we are going through a time when there is a lot of debate about the priority of ‘life and livelihood’, that is, before the chicken, or before the chicken egg! At that time there is no benefit in expecting a budget that is made to measure the needs of the people. The number of the poor is increasing. Many are upset by the fear of losing their jobs. The economy is also faced with medium to long-term challenges such as increased Poverty, unemployment and inequality which blurs much of its shine that was visible due to its high growth.Special attention should be paid to how the proposed huge budget deficit will be managed in the future.
Apart from this, in order to prevent misrepresentation and looting, the budget allocation has to be delivered to the people again and again. Poverty alleviation requires budget transparency and accountability. In the list of International Budget Program Organizations for 2019, Bangladesh has dropped from 41st to 36th place in terms of transparency in budget formulation.
Social security, health and communication sectors have been given importancein this year’s budget but water, sanitation and hygiene sectors have been neglected. The water, sanitation and hygiene (wash) sector is very important in the current Corona situation. Wash your hands repeatedly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds which requires safe water. However, according to the JMP data of 2016, only 56 percent of the people of Bangladesh are under safe management of water. This means that about half of the people do not have access to safe water. However, in this crucial time the availability of safe water is very important for the people so that they can wash their hands with soap and water to protect themselves from corona. Allocating the required budgeton water is important. For attaining the (Sustainable Development Goals) SDGs commitment more funding is neededto under developed and marginalized communities of rural, char, hilly and coastal areas. This time, under the Ministry of Local Government, I am demanding to give special priority to this sector and to add it to the proposed budget for allocating required funds directly to the Union Parishad for health related projects. Although not a participatory budget, at least through the Union Parishad so that the people can benefit from the budget allocation.
It may be mentioned that on Thursday (June 11), Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal delivered a budget of Tk 5 lakh 6 thousand crore for the 49th fiscal year 2020-21 under the title of ‘Economic Transition and Future Roadmap’ in the National Assembly.