JS passes growth-centric budget with high deficit

FE REPORT | Friday, 1 July 2022

Parliament passed Thursday a growth-centric hugely deficit national budget which critics say should have been more welfare-oriented to protect people from woes in the crisis time.

The Tk 6.78-trillion budget for the fiscal year 2022-23, beginning today, was passed by voice vote through adoption of the Appropriations Bill 2022 that empowers the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of Bangladesh for meeting the expenditure during the year.

Earlier on Thursday, the Jatiya Sangsad passed the much-debated Finance Bill 2022 to grant legal cover to the fiscal measures in the new budget.

The eighteenth session of the 11th JS resumed on the day with Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the session. Opposition leader Begum Rowshan Ershad, however, made her speech on the budget a day earlier on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister elaborated on the Padma bridge expenditure saying that the first feasibility study had missed technical issues, including additional river training and dollar rates. She said it is now a multipurpose bridge with four-lane roads and main bridge has actually spent over Tk 110 billion. "It is very low by any measure."

She mentioned that the government has taken adequate measures against the inflationary pressures, including regular market monitoring.

She said there is no corruption in the construction of the bridge. Earlier it was believed that the GDP will rise by 1.3 per cent after the bridge. The estimation was made much earlier. "Our economy is now much stronger so there will be more value addition to the economy."

The Speaker also made a brief speech on the Padma bridge. The Padma bridge is no more dream rather it is a reality.

She said the bridge has economic potential, terming it an "economic lifeline".

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal moved the Appropriations Bill which was passed by voice vote in the heavily treasury-dominated House.

There were cut-motions discussions in the session, including on ministries of education and health services.

Speaking on the cut-motion on the education ministry opposition lawmaker Fakhrul Imam of Mymensingh-8 said that the number of students dropping out is rising in the country.

He said the concerned education ministry has no control as the number of dropout students has been rising over the years from primary to tertiary or post-secondary education levels.

Speaking on the cut-motion on the ministry of health services, BNP lawmaker Rumeen Farhana said that government expenditure on the health services is very low.

"The patients are now paying 72 per cent as out-of-pocket cost for treatment. The government spends only 28 per cent for the treatment."

JP lawmaker Dr Rustom Ali Farazi in the cut motion on the health division said that there is a need for banning activities of illegal clinics.

Health Minister Zahid Malik said the government has planned to vaccinate the kids from age of 5 to 12 from late July.

We are expecting to receive such vaccines in mid-July".

However, the appropriations bill 2022 authorizes the government to spend Tk 8.838 trillion for meeting revenue, development, and charged expenditures from the consolidated fund for the fiscal year beginning today (Friday).

There were 59 demands for grants applied for ministries and divisions.

There were several hundred cut-motions by some 12 opposition and independent members but the speaker allowed discussion only on some ministries, including education and the ministry of health services.

To accelerate the voting on the bill, Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury applied the process of "guillotine" on the demands for grants applied for different ministries and divisions.

The guillotine process allows the Speaker to pass bills quickly by avoiding discussions on some cut-motions.

The JS approved a total allocation of Tk 6.188 trillion against 59 demands for grants by voice vote.

Some Tk 2.649 trillion charged expenditure will be spent from the consolidated fund.

Charged expenditures do not require a vote as per article 89 (1) of the Constitution.

The session started at 3:00 pm on the day and the budget session ended on the day (Thursday).

A total of 228 MPs joined in the budget discussion for nearly 39 hours.

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