Hasina asks FM to lower certain duties

June 30, 2009

Duties on newsprint, mobiles, motorbikes, micro-buses ought to be lowered, says PM
The premier, Sheikh Hasina, on Monday asked the elected representatives and members of the administrations to work hard to implement the proposed budget for 2009-10 fiscal year, which she termed a ‘pro-people’ budget.
The premier, while taking part in the general discussion on the national budget in parliament, also requested her finance minister to reduce the proposed supplementary duties on a number of items, apparently to ease the lives of the low- and middle-income groups.
‘The prime objective of this budget is to improve the people’s quality of life, and the rural economy as well,’ said Hasina, who spoke for nearly one and a half hour, listing a number of measures for enhancing the social safety net and food security programme that her six-month-old government has launched.
She said that her government wants decentralisation of administration for the maximum benefit for the people who live in the rural areas.
The proposed Tk 1,14,000 crore budget, which finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith placed on June 11, is scheduled to be approved by the parliament on Tuesday after a lengthy discussion, mostly by Awami League lawmakers.
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies have been abstaining from parliamentary proceedings ever since the budget session began on June 4 because of the row over seating arrangement inside the House.
Hasina said that she did not feel the absence of the opposition lawmakers in the House, but said that it would have been better if they had joined the budgetary session and had come up with criticism and made constructive suggestions.
‘But I don’t understand for what national causes they have been staying away,’ said Hasina, adding that the contentious issues — seating arrangement inside the House and cancellation of the lease of Khaleda’s Cantonment residence — are not of public concern.
Hasina called upon her arch political rival, opposition leader Khaleda Zia, to leave the Cantonment bungalow and return to parliament.
Summing up the discussions in the House and suggestions from different quarters, she requested the finance minister to reconsider some of his proposed tax measures. The proposed supplementary duties on aluminium products, bidi industries, import of newsprint, low horse-power cars and micro-buses, motorcycles and mobile phones should be decreased, she suggested.
She, however, suggested imposition of higher duties on the costly products being used by the rich.
Hasina requested the finance minister to revise the 5 per cent tax on import of newsprint, saying that she had a meeting with the newspaper owners and thought that the proposed tax measures needed reconsideration.
‘You can reconsider the rate on the newsprint import, whether or not the newspapers write in our favour or not,’ she told Muhith.
Referring to the widespread criticism of legalising undisclosed money, Hasina said that she has heard criticism by the people who had themselves whitened their black money. She referred to amassing and origin of black money and the culture of bank loan defaulting during Ziaur Rahman’s regime in the late 1970s, and said these crimes had remained in the economy since then.
‘It will not be stopped overnight, but we need to bring the undisclosed money to the mainstream economy, otherwise it will remain unutilised,’ said Hasina, adding that there will no longer be any black money in the economy when there will be no longer any corruption in the society.
Hasina reiterated her pledge to strengthen the Anti-Corruption Commission to enable it to work independently and carry on the crusade to end the endemic corruption.
‘We will do whatever the commission needs to work impartially. We will never interfere in its affairs,’ said Hasina, recalling the anti-graft drives by the military-backed government of Fakhruddin Ahmed.
The anti-graft drive had failed because it had turned into a drive against politics, she commented.
In her valedictory speech, the prime minister mentioned her government’s measures for improving agriculture, information technology, social safety net, employment generation, food security, infrastructure development, and construction of bridges, culverts and railways, along with dredging of rivers and digging of waterways.
Hasina called upon the finance minister to make arrangements for setting up call centres and cyber cafes in the upazilas and villages.
She promised 100 per cent allocation for the teachers, free education up to the degree [BA/BSC] level and stipends for both male and female students.
Hasina also unveiled her plans for disbursement of micro-credit to the rural poor at a very low interest rate to enable them to rise above povert. Bringing up the currently important issue of dredging the rivers around the capital, she said that she had contacted a number of international donors who have responded positively to her proposal.
To achieve 8 per cent growth by 2013, as pledged by her party, the prime minister suggested public-private partnership in various sectors.

Courtesy of NewAgebd

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