Budget designed to legalise plundering by few oligarchs: Fakhrul

Published at : 09 June 2024, 09:44 pm
Budget designed to legalise plundering by few oligarchs: Fakhrul
Photo: Collected

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Sunday turned down the proposed national budget for the fiscal year 2024-2025, saying it is just an instrument designed to exploit the poor people and legalise plundering by a few oligarchs.

Speaking at a press conference arranged specifically for the purpose of delivering the party’s official reaction to the Finance Minister’s proposed budget, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the government would not be able to implement the debt and deficit-driven budget.

“The proposed is merely a tool aimed at exploiting the common and poor people of the country. The current looter-regime's budget serves only a handful of oligarchs who are not just involved in theft, but also in business and policy-making and controlling the entire nation,” he said.

Stating that the country is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the BNP’s most senior active leader in the country compared the new budget to a lantern flickering in one’s imagination, erected upon the unstable foundation of a weakened economy.

“Bangladesh is now in the hands of plunderers. This budget is a deceptive tactic to legalise their (government and its cronies) own theft. Fresh plans have been orchestrated in this budget to loot the country’s resources. We turn down this budget,” he said.

The BNP leader said the entire budget has been crafted for mega projects, mega theft, and mega corruption.

Three days after Finance Minister AH Mahmud Ali presented the national budget for fiscal year 2024-25 in parliament, BNP arranged a press conference at its chairperson’s Gulshan office to give the party’s formal reaction.

Fakhrul noted that the proposed expenditure is much higher than the revenue collection target - which he said would only impose additional burden on the common people.

“Implementing such a big budget relying on debt and deficit was not feasible in the past, nor will it be so in the future," he added.

He said the assets needed for budget implementation have been plundered by the oligarchs. “The banks are empty as the oligarchs depleted the banks’ assets, taking loans under the government's shelter. The lion's share of this money has been siphoned abroad.”

Fakhrul criticised the finance minister for proposing to burden the people with increased taxes and debt to collect money for implementing “the ‘so-called’ budget”.

Throughout the press conference, Fakhrul kept hammering on the point that the document setting out the government’s expenditure and earnings projections was knowingly designed to facilitate loot and exploitation of the nation and its resources.

"This budget depends on taxes and loans, and favours looters," he again said towards the end.

Amidst intolerable inflation, Fakhrul said the budget exacerbates the burden on the common people, who are already undergoing serious hardships.

“Expecting a welfare-oriented budget from this unaccountable government is just foolish. This budget is nothing but a shameless imposition of the pressure of both domestic and foreign debt on the common people,” he viewed.

Through this budget, the BNP leader said, the finance minister mocked the people grappling with severe economic hardship, that is compounded by widespread corruption and corrosive financial institutions. “This is also a cruel and heart-wrenching deception with people.”

In the current economic crisis, he said unnecessary mega projects or economically inefficient structures should have been suspended. “Instead, funds should have been redirected to essential sectors like education, health, and agriculture for public welfare.”

The BNP leader was adamant that the social safety net could have been and should have been expanded further, at a time when a substantial segment of the population has newly slipped below the poverty line, facing difficulties to cope with persistent inflation driven by skyrocketing prices of daily essentials.

He criticised the reduction in allocations for the vital education, health, and agriculture sectors (as proportions of GDP, nominally they increased slightly), emphasising that these sectors are crucial for the economy’s long term health.

“There’s no roadmap for the recovery of jobless workers or for the rehabilitation of distressed workers,” the BNP leader also said, returning to his own theme of an economy in distress and in need of welfare policies to reach as many people as possible who were left behind by the government’s shiny development projects.

He voiced his concern that the budget fails to provide any guidance for large scale job creation, at a time when numerous mills and factories are on the brink of closure brought on by government's tightening of import controls.

The measures to limit imports make capital machinery and even raw materials more expensive in light of the dollar crisis that is still unsolved, and for which the next 12 months are so crucial.

Fakhrul criticised the government for increasing bills for mobile phone calls, internet services, and import duty on laptops. He also opposed the scope for whitening black money by imposing a 15 percent tax, saying it will discourage honest taxpayers and encourage corrupt elements. "Granting licences for corruption is illegal, unethical, and unconstitutional."

He said the country is facing an economic and political crisis due to the lack of good governance and accountability of this 'mafia' government.

"The only way to overcome this crisis is to protect the country from the clutches of all mafias and restore democracy. Establishing a responsible government through free, fair, and impartial elections is imperative," he observed.

The party’s standing committee members Mirza Abbas and Nazrul Islam Khan were, among others, present at the press meet.