Workshop on National Budget

InM organised a workshop on ‘Bangladesh National Budget 2015-16: Implications for Employment and Poverty Alleviation” on June 14, 2015 in Media Bazar, Bangabandhu International Conference (BICC). Dr. SajjadZohir, Executive Director, Economic Research Group (ERG) was the keynote speaker of the workshop. Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, InM, presided over the session.Professor M.A. Baqui Khalily, Executive Director, InM, Md. Abdul Karim, Managing Director, PKSF, Dr. QuaziMesbahuddin Ahmed, Former MD, PKSF, and Mr. Helal Ahmed Chowdhury, Supernumerary Professor, BIBM graced the even with their presence. The National Conference was attended by local academicians, policymakers, development practitioners and sector stakeholders.

workshopThe Institute of Microfinance (InM) organized a workshop on ‘Bangladesh National Budget 2015-16:Implications for Employment and Poverty Alleviation” on June 14, 2015 in Media Bazar, Bangabandhu International Conference (BICC). Dr. Sajjad Zohir, Executive Director, Economic Research Group (ERG)was the keynote speaker of the workshop. Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, InM, presided over the session. Professor M.A. Baqui Khalily, Executive Director, InM, Md. Abdul Karim, Managing Director, PKSF, Dr. Quazi Mesbahuddin Ahmed, Former MD, PKSF, and Mr. Helal Ahmed Chowdhury,

Supernumerary Professor, BIBM graced the even with their presence. The National Conference was attended by local academicians, policymakers, development practitioners and sector stakeholders.In his welcome speech, Professor M.A. Baqui Khalily said that for sustainable poverty alleviation and growth, along with employment it is also important to consider multidimensional factors such as health,education along as poverty is rather multidimensional than uni-dimensional.While delivering his speech, Dr. Sajjad Zohir said that even though there is hardly any chance of influencing the resource allocations in the 2015-16 budget, there is opportunity to take lessons, and reflect better to engage during next opportune moment. Dr. Zohir said that, confining to numbers misleading, unless implementation is addressed and indirect effects of transfers assessed. The Finance Minister’s concerns with social protection appears to be confined to “backward” sections like dalit, harizan, bede and hijra, who need to be provided with necessary social support and brought into mainstream society. However, he remarked that unilateral transfer does not result in growth in development. According to Dr. Zohir, discussion on inclusion has long been confined to programmes associated with ‘transfer’ but it should only be appropriate to talk of ‘transfers’ to only the needy and incapable and disabled ones; and should seek ways to tie in transfers to potential workforce with respectable employment contributing to growth.

Upon discussion of budget 2015-16, Dr. Zohir pointed out that emphasis is given on foreign investments and on manpower export. Emphasis on infrastructure is given, but most of which is unlikely to be completed over the budget year. He stated that such public investments are expected to be at the cost of private investment and current consumption while mega projects are also associated with skewed distribution of “rent” and capital flight. On topic of safety net programmes, Dr. Zohir noted that the plan of consolidating such programmes into few was short-lived. Proliferation of programmes is likely an outcome of political patronages. There has been significant departure in tax policy, said Dr. Sajjad Zohir, as there is more emphasis on indirect taxes in the name of VAT on domestic production and services, especially the latter. He stated that, depleting middle class and downsising of employment in support services and dependent hierarchies may adversely affect poverty reduction in the short term. He reemphasised how manpower export remains the focal point of employment with no serious attempt to link skill developments with large scale investments.

Finally, Dr. Sajjad Zohir expressed that in light of budget 2015-16, domestic investment is not forthcoming and it is institutionally discouraged. He further stated of little local employment generation through mega projects in near future, in fact it will increase cost of private business which will remain high during coming years of construction. The traditional modes of safety net programmes will soon face the heat due to pilferages associated with political patronage, new players emerging due to shift away from the traditional modes, and emergence of Below Poverty Line (BPL) like comprehensive information, driven support programmes. Moreover, social resilience which has often been the result of dependent hierarchy mediated through the expenditure block, is under threat since the easy money to the so called ‘Babus’ is likely to dry out and the net take home to decline. The focus on manpower export will lead to further segmentation in the society and sustenance of local political stability whose tenure will depend on the providers of such employment.

Mr. Helal Ahmed Chowdhury, Supernumerary Professor, BIBM, commented on how Bangladesh has huge potential. He mentioned how policies of the Bangladesh Bank caused evolution of role of banks, as loans to agriculture sectors are sanctioned by all types of banks, including private commercial banks. Mr. Chowdhury added that in order to control rural to urban migrations, it is important to create employment opportunities in rural regions. In his speech, Md. Abdul Karim, Managing Director, PKSF, remarked how allocation on development sector has declined, it is 3.7% of budget in 2015 compared to 5.4% in 2013. He said that, PKSF is moving towards integrated growth approach, by providing training, health programmes along with microcredit.

Dr. Quazi Mesbahuddin Ahmed, Former MD, PKSF, emphasised to achieve inclusive growth focus should be given on employment of unemployed. He remarked on how practice of poverty rate determination and reduction is money metric, with two lines, upper and lower poverty. Even if poverty alleviation is achieved by year 2021, it will be in absolute poverty (money metric) and not relative poverty. He also highlighted the importance of income inequality while discussion poverty alleviation, which has been on the rise especially in rural areas. He also stated the importance of collecting data on informal sector, which employs significant portion of the population.

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad appreciated Dr. Zohir’s important presentation on budget 2015‐16. He said that progress has been made over the years, through expenditure increase, improvement of rural economy and such, but it is essential to allocate further in education and health sectors. The success of the budget implementation depends on integrated approach, institutional efficacy, and reduction of corruption. In closing, he thanked all the participants for coming to the workshop and giving their valuable inputs to the session.