People who have been hit hard by the recent shutdown aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak, have urged the government to announce a pro-poor national budget that saves both the lives and livelihoods of the people.
They have also requested the government to prioritise health, agriculture, social safety net and education in the budget for 2020-21 fiscal year.
Bangladesh announced detection of its first coronavirus cases on March 8 and the first death on March 18. The general holidays were announced from March 26 and later extended up to May 30 in phases.
Millions of day labourers and low-income people, as well as those involved in the non-essential sector, were hit the hardest with many losing their jobs.
Monir, a street child, said that all he wants is to have three square meals a day. “Nothing else matters to people like us,” he said.
Rickshaw puller Ashikur Rahman said they don’t think about budget.
“I want to work and earn enough to feed my family. I request the authorities not to increase prices of daily essentials in upcoming days,” he said.
Nazrul Islam, a shopkeeper from old Dhaka, said he does not understand budget but sees an increase in prices of various goods after budget is announced every year. He said the government should pay attention so that prices of goods do shoot up.
A farmer from Shariatpur, Abdul Khaleque, 60, said he faced unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus outbreak. He urged the government to prioritise the sector in budget to ensure farmers get fair prices.
Rabiul Alam, an English department student of Jagannath University, said health, agriculture, small venture or businesses should be given priority in the budget.
“We need to increase allocation for the health sector. The government should increase budget allocation for agriculture to ensure food security. Besides, employment generation and improving education quality should also be addressed in this budget,” he said.
H Al Hasib, a nursing officer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said the upcoming budget should be health sector friendly one.
“The government should ensure safety facilities for all health staff. Risk allowance should be given for all nursing staff. The government has already ensured risk allowance for COVID-19 fighters but we hope that it will be increased and ensured for all nursing staff. We are dedicated to serving the patients. Only one PPE is not enough for every shift,” the Senior Vice President of Society for Nurses Safety and Rights (SNSR) said.
Private sector seeks focus
Bank official Rabeya Akter Ripa said the banking sector is very significant for a country’s economy. Sadly, it’s now going through difficult time. She urged taking proper steps to strengthen the sector.
“However, Health, agriculture, social safety net, digital education system should also be prioritised,” she said.
M Mahfuzur Rahman, Deputy Assistant Director of Walton Group said the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on economies across the globe.
“Many people may lose their jobs as the overall activities in businesses and especially the private sectors have been shut for over two months,” he said.
Rahman said many private companies couldn’t pay salaries because of a lack of income. “The private sector should be prioritised while announcing various stimulus packages in the budget for 2020-21. The budget should include elements such as employment, manufacturing and mobilisation of the service sector to accelerate overall economic activities,” he said.
According to Finance Ministry sources, the national budget for 2020-21 FY, which is likely to be around Tk 565,000 crore, is going to give priority to reviving the economy with the rehabilitation of low-income people.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal is scheduled to place his budget proposal in Parliament on June 11 if things go well.