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|BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia Unveils Shadow Budget For 2010-11|
|Friday, 11 June 2010 08:00|
In the shadow budget Khaleda Zia proposed allocation of funds in different sectors to meet the economic growth with a vision to lift the economy to mid level by year 2015.
Key Points Of the Shadow Budget for the FY 2010-2011
Power and Energy: The present government has been talking of its grandiose plans for new electricity generation. However nothing has happened so far except for the recent initiatives for setting up rental power units, the procurement of which is being done in violation of established norms. We are concerned that the high purchase price (Taka 14 to 16 per unit) of power from the proposed rental units will, in the absence of substantial subsidies to PDB, result in much higher tariff to the users, thereby affecting the profitability of the industries sector, particularly the small and medium enterprises and the agriculture sector, apart from causing hardship to household consumers.
Should the government decide to provide subsidies, in the coming year alone it will entail an estimated Taka 7,000-9,000 crore, which is more than triple the total allocations for (Tk.2600 crore) for the last fiscal year, and is likely to be higher than the total allocations for the coming fiscal year. Various prevailing subsidies account for a substantial portion of our public expenditure. This additional burden of subsidy will entail reduced allocations for other equally important sectors of the economy. The government’s willful delays to justify an unsolicited and shady procurement of these rental units will cause this wastage of scarce resources.
The Government has entered into an Agreement with Russia for establishing a 1000 MW nuclear power station. It is still in very early stages and the details are yet to be worked out. While we have no objections to this in principle, and look upon this as a longer term solution to our power and energy problem, I would, however, like to raise a safety related issue. Bangladesh being a densely populated country, it will be imperative to ensure that full-proof safety measures are enforced to protect the population against any eventualities arising from the use and handling of radioactive materials, particularly with respect to the disposal of nuclear wastes. In the US a ten mile exclusion area surrounding a nuclear plant is required where no human habitation is allowed. Yet, the world has witnessed human miseries of untold proportions resulting from accidents even under conditions of state-of-the art technology and high levels of technical and operational expertise.
I, therefore, suggest that instead of rushing into the proposed project, more as a stunt and palliative, the government should first carefully evaluate relevant financial, economic, technical, operational and safety related issues, while concentrating on economically defensible near term solutions of the power and energy crisis.
Without discounting the importance of establishing new capacities and exploring alternative energy sources such as nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal etc., I would, however, like to point out that it should be possible to generate and feed into the national grid an estimated 700-800 MW of additional electricity within 7-8 months through major overhaul, repairs and routine maintenance of some 40 units that are 20 years old. Enhancing the capacities of the distribution sub-stations will also allow smoothening the supply of electricity. These would be definitely preferable solutions in the interim compared to paying high prices to rental units. We suggest that the government considers this and other such options for mitigation of the problem in the near term, in tandem with planned investments for generating additional capacities for the future.
We suggest that the proposed budget gives top priority to exploration of new gas reserves in order to ease the supply of gas for power generation as well as for fertilizer production. Towards that end, the technical and financial capabilities of Petro-Bangla should be suitably enhanced. Optimum use of our national reserves of coal for power generation should be ensured by expediting extraction of coal, albeit with appropriate measures for mitigating the environmental hazards as well as for rehabilitation and compensation of the affected people in the mining areas.
Education: The achievements of my two previous Governments in the field of education have been widely recognized nationally and internationally. Our budgets gave highest allocation for the education sector. Our policies were focused on expanding institutional capacities for both general and technical/vocational education, ensuring gender equity, enhancing quality of education at all levels and ensuring that poverty will not be an impediment to access.
As a result, net enrollments at Primary schools reached over 95%, proportion of girl students at primary, secondary and higher secondary levels increased to over 50%, quality of primary and secondary school teachers at entry was ensured, teachers’ salaries and benefits were enhanced, pass rates and quality at public examinations spectacularly improved, vocational and technical education (including computer science) in secondary schools and madrashas was strengthened, 24 polytechnic institutes, including three for women, were established, and implementation of a project for establishing vocational schools at upazillas had started.
Under the aegis of a publicly funded but autonomous Quality Education Foundation, nearly 50 model English medium schools were established in some districts and upazillas, but sadly enough, the present government has withdrawn support on the Foundation.
Bangladesh allocates about 2.5% of its GDP for education which is lowest in the region.
Public and private universities have expanded significantly, yet existing capacities allow only about 4-5% of the eligible aspirants to be able secure admissions to the universities. Moreover, there is now a serious shortage of well qualified and experienced teachers for higher level teaching and research. With World Bank assistance, my government prepared a 20-year strategic plan for expansion and qualitative improvements in university education. We expect adequate funds to be allocated for its implementation of this project. I also propose allocations for a dedicated fund of Tk 200 crore for overseas training of university teachers. A rigorous selection of awardees based on merit and appropriate incentives for their return upon completion of their higher studies must be ensured.
Science Education, Research and Development. These aspects of the education sector have suffered benign neglect, and student numbers in science subjects at the secondary and higher secondary schools have been declining. There are a number of science and agricultural research institutions which suffer due to insufficient funds for research as most allocations are exhausted on salaries and wages. My proposals for this important sub-sector of education are as follows:
In addition to measures to improve the quality of instruction at the schools, colleges and universities, we propose more effective use of television for this purpose. A separate channel in the Bangladesh Television (or via the studios of the Open University) dedicated to the transmission of model instructions (lectures) by reputed scholars and teachers on various subjects based on the approved curricula and syllabus is proposed. These programs could also be reproduced as CDs and distributed to students at moderate costs.
Information and Communication Technology. Recognizing the critical importance of science, and information and communication technology in meeting the challenges of the 21st century, my government established a separate Ministry of Science and Technology in 2002, and formulated a National ICT policy. ICT was designated as one of ‘thrust’ sectors and a National Task Force with myself as the Chairperson was formed. In 2006, the Parliament passed the Information and Communication Technology Act.
We connected Bangladesh with the world’s information highway through the submarine cable. Various activities for human resource development were carried out through the Bangladesh Computer Council. We believe that priority should be given to faster expansion of the ICT infrastructure and development of human resources. In this context, I am proposing that (a) the current zero-duty facilities for all ICT related equipment and materials be continued, and that (b) public sector support be provided to the many private sector ICT training centers in order to improve their quality and uniformity.
Health and Family Planning: During 2001-2006, we increased the number of beds in government hospitals at different tiers by 6524, provided 285 X-ray machines, 270 Ambulances and many other essential equipment, and expanded the facilities for specialized treatment of cancer, cardiac and kidney diseases, and burn injuries. We significantly increased the number of doctors (2687), nurses (2000), health assistants (3000), and upazila family planning officers. Additionally, we created posts for nearly 16,000 more doctors, health assistants and nurses. The EPI coverage increased from 52% to 63%. Infant mortality and maternal deaths were reduced, but the incidence of child malnutrition and underweight children remained at 16% and 46%, respectively.
We made major restructuring of the family planning program, which was in a bad state of management and lost its focus during the 1996-2001 government. The Health Directorate and the Family Planning Directorates were given separate responsibilities for program implementation. We restored the door-door delivery of family planning materials and incentives programs. These steps restored the lost momentum of the family planning program. Our aim is to bring down population growth rate to 0% within then next ten years.
I propose that appropriate provisions be made for (i) increasing the supply of population control services and materials, (ii) programs for further reductions in infant and maternal mortality, (iii) improving the status of child malnutrition and underweight, (iv) expansion of health services coverage for the rural and urban poor, and (v) for introducing a health insurance program.
Our proposals for women’s development are as follows:
Social Safety Net: During my 2001-2006 government, coverage under the social safety net program increased significantly. In 2001, an estimated 700,000 beneficiaries received a total sum of Taka 100 crore. In 2006, the total number of beneficiaries increased to 2.8 million hardcore poor people who received a total amount of Taka 600 crore. I propose that the ongoing programs should be expanded to include more of the hardcore people and per capita allocation be increased by 20%. I also propose that in the light of past experiences, targeting of beneficiaries should be improved, allocations for administrative costs be increased and effective measures to rectify any leakages and corrupt practices in the listing and distribution should process should be taken.
I am also proposing that in addition to the old age allowance, a pilot scheme for setting up a contributory ‘Old Age Pension Fund’ be undertaken. Individuals who have non-pensionable incomes, would be eligible to open an account against his/her National ID card and make periodic deposits to this Fund throughout his/her working life. The proceeds of the Fund will be invested for profit and the participants will be paid back their entire deposit plus accrued profit at the end of his or her work life. I am proposing an allocation of Taka 100 crore for the scheme.
In consideration of the above, I would like to propose the following:
Agricultural Support Services: Although agriculture sector’s contribution to the GDP has been declining, its role in ensuring food autarky and production for exports, providing a diverse but nutritionally balanced diet, and generating employment and income for the bulk of the population living in rural areas, remain as important as before. In view of the declining availability of limited agricultural lands, continuous increases in the productivity of fixed and variable resources will be needed to maintain a level of agricultural production that will effectively sustain the lives and livelihoods of a growing population. Additionally, agricultural potentials (crops, livestock and fisheries) of the wetlands and the vast Haors need to be fully exploited, albeit with due cognizance of the special environmental protection needs.
Agriculture is the largest private sector in Bangladesh with millions of individual participants guided by socio-economic rationale. We, therefore, believe that maintaining a reliable supply of quality inputs, provision of technical support services and ensuring efficient marketing of produce at prices that the producers will consider to be profitable, would be the only way to increase productivity and production in this predominantly smallholder subsistence agriculture. We, therefore, propose the following:
In order to encourage the production of protein foods, we recommend that appropriate trade and tariff policies be instituted to protect the domestic producers from the Indian imports (through formal and informal trade). We also propose that rearing of milch buffaloes in suitable agro-climatic zones of the country be encouraged through appropriate incentives and technical support services.
Land Use Planning and Development of Rural Settlements: The availability of our very limited agricultural lands is diminishing at a rate of about 1% per annum due to urbanization, physical infrastructure and industrial development, construction of brick fields and other non-agricultural uses. While these are normal features of an agricultural economy in transformation, Bangladesh’s special circumstances warrant planned measures for mitigation of potentially adverse effects on the lives and livelihood of rural and peri-urban population. We propose the following:
Preservation and Optimum Use of Public lands, Water Bodies and Forests:
Agricultural Insurance: I am proposing agricultural insurance to support marginal farmers mitigate the risks of production failure due to weather or any other factors beyond their control in the following fields:
Challenges of Global Warming and Climate Change: Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to suffer from the likely adverse effects of global warming and climate change. Some two crore people and the flora and fauna in the coastal and low lying areas will be adversely affected due to inundation by sea water, salt water intrusion, scarcity of drinking water and soil salinity. This will affect the agro-ecology, eco-systems, biodiversity, human habitation and livelihood.
In the absence of a short, medium and long term strategic plan to mitigate the effects of the predicted climate change, ad-hoc arrangements like the creation of a Climate Change Fund, is going to be nothing more than tokenism. We would like to propose the following:
In the above context it may also be noted that the construction of the Farakka barrage by India on the river Ganges 35 years ago, has already inflicted upon some 30 million inhabitants in South and South -Western region of Bangladesh the same calamities that the international communities are predicting due to likely climate changes 30-40 years down the road. The proposed Tipaimukh dam and barrage in the North Eastern state of Monipur is going to create the same unmitigated disaster for human lives and ecosystems in the Meghna-Kushiara basin in lower riparian Bangladesh.
Cyclone Aila and Disaster Management: Nothing epitomizes more the administrative incompetence inherent in this government than the current plight of the cyclone Aila victims. The inhabitants are living under sub-human conditions of immense proportions. They are virtually prisoners in ‘pockets’ that are inundated by saline water. Many dwellings still remain flooded inside. People bathe and wash in the water polluted by human and animal excreta. Women and children have to travel far on rafts to fetch drinking water. There are no efforts to rehabilitate and strengthen costal embankments, resulting in further damage to the structures by wave action. It is alleged by the inhabitants that relief and rehabilitation activities have been stalled due to infighting of the ruling party political activists in the area. We request the government to take measures for removing the impediments to implementation of the relief and rehabilitation activities.
We propose that special allocations be made in the coming budget for constructing/ rehabilitating/strengthening the drainage structures and protective embankments, providing materials for constructing/repairing of damaged households, and for reviving agricultural development activities.
Water Resources Management: Overall water demand in Bangladesh has been increasing due to population growth, urbanization, development of irrigated agriculture, fisheries, industrialization etc. However, availability of surface and sub-surface water has been dwindling. Vast expansion of tube well irrigation has led a serious depletion of aquifer. Against this background, it is important that a multimodal water resource management plan is prepared to ensure adequate provision of safe drinking water for the urban, peri-urban and rural population, and for meeting the needs of agricultural, livestock and fisheries production. We believe that efforts should be geared to:
Roads, Railways and Inland Water Transport Development: In a densely populated country like Bangladesh, there is no better alternative than to develop a well designed and integrated multi-modal transport system comprising of railways, roads and waterways. Despite major expansions of the road network, it has been rendered inadequate and inefficient by an ever increasing volume of goods and services traffic. Major inter-district roads and highways remain clogged with vehicular traffic, resulting in expensive delays in commuting times.
Increasing use of the extensive railways network would relieve this pressure on roads as well as allow faster and cheaper inter-district transportation of passengers, goods and services. But this will require major upgrading and rehabilitation of the centuries old tracks, increasing and modernizing the rolling stock and locomotives, better equipping and modernizing the existing railway workshops and, most importantly, improving the overall management of the system.
The relative importance of riverine transport has declined over time partly because of the expansion of road network, and partly because many rivers, their tributaries and canals have become non-navigable due to reduced flow and siltation arising from unilateral diversion of water by upstream structures in India. A technically sound program of dredging some of the major waterways that would improve connectivity of the waterways should be undertaken. Large river crafts (launches and steamers) play an important role in connecting the metropolitan cities with the south and southwestern districts and some coastal settlements. Safety of travel by these river crafts are open to question due to deficiencies in their engineering design, and operational problems arising from inexperienced crew, overloading and violation of navigational rules. These problems need to be addressed as well as capabilities for timely and effective response to accidents on the waterways need to be improved.
Urban Transportation Management: Unprecedented traffic congestion in Dhaka and its suburbs have not only made civic life unbearable, it has also imposed economic and social costs. More time is wasted on point-to-travel than in productive activities. With dilapidated and antiquated vehicles and sub-standard services, public transportation of acceptable quality and comfort is virtually absent. Hence many travel by private cars, auto rickshaws, or motorcycles. Roads were not designed to carry this large volume of multi-modal traffic.
Since the existing roads can not be widened or alternative roads constructed due to land constraints and unplanned construction of buildings, the feasible solutions for easing the problem will be to construct elevated roadways, monorails, circular railways, and developing a vastly improved public transport system including fast commuter trains connecting Dhaka with cities within a fifty miles radius. We also initiated a circular water ways for easing the pressure on roads. This may made fully operational.
Developing self contained satellite towns, de-concentrating government offices from their existing locations, introducing school and hospital zoning system, are some of the policy and institutional measures that can also be considered over the medium and long term.
The Police Force. An honest and efficient police force is a sin qua non for ensuring rule of law and improving the internal law and order situation. In Bangladesh, the ratio of police and total population is abysmally low. They have to work under extremely difficult conditions and for long hours. My previous government increased the size of the Police force and also equipped them with new vehicles, equipments and better arms and ammunitions. More needs to be done for upgrading and modernizing the Police force.We propose that the budget should provide for
Most importantly, I would urge the government to provide an enabling environment for the police to work without any undue political interference or intimidation in discharging their duties.
The Armed Forces: The Armed Forces of Bangladesh must be suitably expanded and strengthened to be an effective deterrent against any assault on national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bangladesh. Each and every branch of the Armed Forces must be equipped with modern arms and armaments. The irreparable and tragic loss inflicted by the BDR uprising, have to be recouped by an accelerated and expanded program for recruitment and training. Each and every individual has to be trained and motivated to be a valiant soldier and an uncompromising patriot. The capabilities and skills of the intelligence apparatus and personnel must be vastly strengthened to forestall any subversive activities against the armed forces. In view of the significant importance of the maritime boundaries of Bangladesh, from the point of territorial security and protection of off shore resources, immediate steps must be taken to put in place a tri-modal naval defense system.
Bangladesh Rifles: The incomprehensible and tragic failure of this government to deal with the BDR uprising swiftly and decisively will remain as a dark chapter in the contemporary history of this country. In the aftermath of the uprising, there was nothing left of border security worthy of its name. Quick reorganization of the BDR to restore it to its previous glory and effectiveness has become an urgent imperative in view of the unhindered smuggling of goods, drugs, alcohol, arms and ammunition, together with illegal and reckless activities of the Indian Border Security Forces. Bangladeshis have been indiscriminately killed by BSF during the last 17 months of this government. . The government has failed to take any effective measures to protect the lives and properties of the inhabitants other than asking them not to tread within five km of the border at night.
Broad Guidelines for Rationalization of Taxation policies: Bangladesh has one of the lowest Tax-GDP ratio, which needs to be increased to generate additional public sector resources. However, we believe that a rational taxation policy would be one that will encourage taxpayers to pay taxes rather than avoidance. Moreover, the government’s objective should be to increase the total proceeds of tax revenue and not to encourage avoidance through a high tax rate. We would like to propose as follows:
Against all odds, the valiant freedom fighters and the people of this country fought alongside the then political and military leadership to create an independent Bangladesh. Betrayal of the blood, sweat and tears of millions during the early years after independence still haunts us as a dark chapter in our history. Today, we stand on the ashes of a stifling one party ‘democracy’, an authoritarian ‘Presidential’ form of government, and the post-one eleven unconstitutional usurper government. Establishment of a pluralist democracy by President Ziaur Rahman, and the general elections of 1991, brought this nation back to the ideals for which millions sacrificed their lives in the 1971 war of liberation ---democracy, freedom, dignity and prosperity.
Our dream and vision for the future, therefore, is a globally integrated and environmentally sustainable Bangladesh that will be free from hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, social injustice, violation of human rights, exploitation of many by a privileged few, discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, cultural heritage or on any other grounds, and a Bangladesh that will have a rightful place of honor and dignity in the global community within this coming decade. To fulfill this dream and vision:
WE envision the protection and consolidation of a multiparty democracy in its truest sense through irrevocable guarantees for
WE envision an economic management and policy regime that will position Bangladesh, by 2015, on a fast track for transition into the ranks of a middle income country through
WE envision a human resources development policy that will
WE envision a health and family welfare policy that will
WE envision a public administration distinguished by
WE envision an Armed Forces that will
Above all, we envision a Bangladesh that will always stand upright and put above everything else its national interests and pride, territorial integrity, and sovereign equality in building its relationship with other countries in the region as well as with those across the seven seas.
My fellow Countrymen, let us put our head, heart and soul together in the relentless pursuit of our dream and vision for a Bangladesh as I have outlined above.
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|Last Updated on Friday, 11 June 2010 16:33|