Political parties react to budget: Hard to implement

Budget 2010: No relief for middle class

Entertainment: Hugh Jackman met Professor Yunus

Nizami, Mojaheed, Sayedee arrested...

The police have arrested top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Matiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Delwar Hossain Sayedee on charges of defying court orders.

They were detained in a case filed for hurting religious sentiments after a Dhaka court earlier in the day ordered arrest of four party leaders.

Chief of the fundamentalist Jamaat, Nizami was arrested at the National Press Club around 5:15pm on Tuesday, Dhaka deputy police commissioner Krishnapada Roy confirmed bdnews24.com.

He said former agriculture minister Nizami was taken into police custody following a court order.

Secretary general Mojaheed was arrested in front of the National Memorial at Savar around 4:30pm, Ashulia police chief Sirajul Islam told bdnews24.com. The ex-social affairs minister was on his way to village home at Shabashpur in Faridpur with his wife Tamanna Jahan and son Ahmed Takik.

Ashulia police handed him over to the Detective Branch at around 6pm. Jamaat supporters at Ashulia protested when he was taken to the police van. The police detained one 'Sohel'.

Executive committee member Sayedee was detained from his Shahinbagh residence around 5:30pm, a Detective Branch official told bdnews24.com.

Officer-in-charge of Paltan Police Station Shahidul Huq at 6pm told bdnews24.com: "The police also raided the city Jamaat office to detain city Jamaat chief Rafiqul Islam Khan on reports that he was there. But we did not find him there."

Khan is also facing arrest warrant, he added.

Ramna police have taken position in front of the Jamaat headquarters at Maghbazar from 5pm to thwart any unpleasant situation, officer-in-charge Shibly Nomani told bdnews24.com.

Magistrate Mehdi Hasan Talukder of Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court issued the order against the four as they did not appear before the judge.

The court granted bail to another suspect in the case, Mohammad Yahia, Islami Chhatra Shibir president of Dhaka metropolitan (south), after he had surrendered to the court and sought bail.

The court set August 3 for next proceedings, defence counsel Muhammad Abdur Razzak said.

The case cited Rafiqul Islam Khan's comparison of Nizami to Prophet Muhammad at a March 17 meeting of the pro-Jamaat student front Islami Chhatra Shibir in the city.

Various newspapers on Mar 18 reported Khan as saying that the prophet in his lifetime was "tortured, falsified and conspired against" and "the same is happening in the case of Nizami".

Khan later denied the reports.

Bangladesh Tariqat Federation secretary general Syed Rezaul Haque Chandpuri filed the case on Mar 21.

They were initially summoned to appear before the court on Apr 28 but they did not show up. Thy court issued another summons that day but this was also disobeyed. 

Source: bdnews24.com
Date: 01/07/2010 

Entertainment: Theatre troupe Natyabed makes its debut with “Mon Paboner Nao”

Natyabed, a new theatre group, staged its first production “Mon Paboner Nao” on June 9 at the Studio Theatre Hall, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Dipak Roy is the director of the play -- an adaptation of Bibhash Chakrobarty's “Madhob Malancho Koinna.”
A group of theatre enthusiasts from Dhaka University have formed the troupe. Before the Dhaka premiere, the play was first staged in Mymensingh last month. The play is based on folk ballads from “Mymensingh Geetika,” which explains why Natyabed staged the premiere in Mymensingh.
Roy said that in the late 1980s, Onno Theatre from Kolkata staged “Madhob Malancho Koinna” in Dhaka, which inspired him greatly. He has made some changes in his play though.
“Mon Paboner Nao” narrates the tale of a prince named Madhob. He is the youngest of five siblings. After their father's demise, the elder brothers hatch a conspiracy against Madhob because a fortuneteller has disclosed that Madhob will be the next king.
Madhob learns of the plot and somehow manages to flee the palace. He takes shelter in a neighbouring kingdom. There he meets Malancho, the princess.
Madhob falls for Maloncho but cannot disclose his identity. To add to his woes, the king arranges Maloncho's marriage with another prince. Through many ups and downs, the story ends on a happy note.
Mostafizur Rahman enacted the role of Madhob, while Farzana Yasmin played Malancho. Among others, Mohammad Zahirul Islam, Surobhi Roy, Limon Hossain, Asad Zaman and Nur Islam Tipu performed in the play.
The director of the play also did set and light designing for the play.

Source: The Daily Star

Budget implementation big challenge: CPD

The size of the budget, both development and revenue, is realistic considering the country’s population and economy, but implementation is a big challenge for the government, civil society think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue said on Friday.
“We do not think it’s a big budget. How we can achieve 8 percent growth rate depends on our capacity to implement such a big budget,” Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the CPD, said in a media briefing at Brac Centre Inn of the capital.
The economic growth that has been set at 6.7 percent for the next fiscal year from 5.5 percent for the outgoing year is also achievable, said Rahman.
The CPD’s observations came a day after Finance Minister AMA Muhith placed a Tk 1,32,170 crore budget for the fiscal 2010-11.
In its analysis the think-tank believes that adequate focus has been given on boosting investment and solving energy and infrastructure problems.
But if there is a lack in proper implementation, it may stoke inflation and hurt growth prospects, the research organisation warned.

Political parties react to budget: Hard to implement..

BNP General Secretary Khandaker Delwar Hossain termed the proposed budget for the 2010-11 fiscal highly ambitious and shrouded with ambiguity.
"The finance minister read out a beautiful essay and made a weave of dreams. The government will not be able to implement the proposed budget for lack of good governance -- just as the last time," he said.
Delwar made the comments in a post-budget reaction at the party's central office last night.
"Our Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia placed some proposals before the budget. But there is no reflection of those in the proposed budget," he added.
He said people would reject this budget as it would not play any effective role in the people's welfare.
The complete official budget reaction would be given later, said Delwar Hossain.
BNP standing committee member MK Anwar, Abdul Moyeen Khan and other leaders were present there.
President of Workers' Party Rashed Khan Menon termed the budget comprehensive which would accelerate the country's progress. "But its implementation will be the main challenge," he said.
Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad said it was an ambitious budget and its implementation is possible if the government and administration remain active and sincere.
He proposed withdrawal of tax on sugar.
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami General Secretary Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid termed the budget large-scale and impractical.
"It is not a good budget because it might face difficulties in implementation. This year we have noticed 52 percent of ADB achieved. It is not satisfying. Implementation of a budget is more important than proposing it," he said.
Mojahid observed that the sectors from which resources would be gained are not specified in the budget.
Jatiya Party (JP-Manju) Chairman Anwar Hossain Manju said it is an excellent budget. But the government would not be able to implement it due to weakness in administration and tardy implementation of the proposed projects.
The finance minister did not say anything about how the lifestyle of people would be upgraded and poverty would be reduced through this budget, Manju said.
He also hunched that due to global economic meltdown financial assistance from foreign countries would not be achieved as expected and it would hinder the implementation of the budget.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haque Inu termed the budget development-oriented and farmer-friendly. He said it would help flourish small industries.
But the major loophole in the budget is that the government has not reduced tax on information related equipment that will act as a barrier in establishing Digital Bangladesh.
He also demanded withdrawal of tax on SIM card and cell phone sets by 12 percent and to decrease tax below 5 percent on telephone equipment.
Gonoforum president Dr Kamal Hossain said this budget would help in rural development and improve the country's economy. But the weaknesses must be removed for its proper implementation.
Zaker Party Chairman Mostafa Ameer Faisal in a statement termed the budget ambitious.

Source: The Daily Star
Date: 11/06/2010

Budget 2010: No relief for middle class..

The traffic jam was terrible. Abidur Rahim thought the budget speech would be over by the time he reached home.
He sped up his bike as Mirpur Road was a bit free after passing Agargaon intersection. Luckily, when he reached home the minister was still on TV.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday not only proposed the biggest budget ever of Tk 132,170 crore but also brought a change in presentation. For the first time PowerPoint was used during a budget speech.
Abidur, a private firm employee and breadwinner in a four-member family, was following the budget speech for the last two years.
"Environment is an extremely important issue of concern for the existence of country's large population," the minister said. Abidur appreciated it.
The minister kept on saying many good initiatives for the disabled, acid survivors, widow and old citizens of the country and Abidur's appreciation followed too.
Shahana, his wife, joined him watching the budget speech. She asked whether he knew prices of which commodities were going up.
"Not yet," Abidur made a brief reply and paid his attention to the TV.
The minister proposed zero tariffs on import of rice, wheat, onion, pulse and edible oil, seeds, fertiliser, medicine and cotton.
That means no indication of increasing price of these items, Shahana said.
"Fifteen percent VAT on import of CBU/diesel/petrol/ CNG buses having 40 seats or more," the speech continued.
"If they increase price of big buses, the road will be full of small busses and the traffic jam is going to be worse," Abidur told his wife as he heard experts' comments on talk shows several times.
Last year the budget did not fulfill his expectations when an elected government rolled out country's annual financial plan after a two-year break. Like previous years Abidur was keen to know what the democratic government would do for the millions of people in mid-income brackets.
"With a view to encouraging investors to build a heavy…," the power snapped at this point.
Abidur bought a small IPS a few months ago. But it does not support the television.
He found two missed calls at his cellphone when he came out from the washroom after having a shower.
Babar, one of his friends, called him.
"How do you like the first ever digital budget?" he asked Babar calling him back.
"Abid, do you know the price of coconut oil, fruits jam and jelly, juice, medicine, paints, cosmetics, soap, match, mosquito coil, battery, sandal and shoe and electric fan might go up? Babar asked.
"I don't know. The electricity snapped," Abid said.
"Don't worry. The load-shedding is to go within two years, the minister said."
Abid asked his friend, "How much is the tax rate on coconut oil and other goods?" He made this particular question as price hike worried him more than load-shedding. Promise of uninterrupted electricity after two years did not impress him much.
"It is not clear yet. But those are coming under compulsory VAT registration. So surely the price will go up," Babar replied.
He also said the price of building construction materials like tiles and mosaic would go up soon. Besides, prices of ready-made apartments would also up as new tax is going to be imposed on real estate business.
Shahana came back with two cups of tea.
The most important thing is price of sugar would go up as the government is going to impose duty on raw sugar. Prices of cigarettes, chocolate milk and chewing tobacco will also increase.
"Okay, no problem. I quit cigarette earlier. Now we will cut sugar from our tea to cut the extra expenditure," he said.
The two friends agreed that the budget has a number of positive sides as the finance minister is trying to expand the tax net. All of them are needed to net in more funds to fuel his big budget.
But one crucial area remained neglected in the budget speech -- corruption. The minister said nothing to check corruption.
Hanging the phone up, Abid thought he would better read tomorrow's newspapers to have a clear conception of what this budget might mean to people like him.

Source: The Daily Star
Date: 11/06/2010

Big budget, few new ideas: Harsh VAT to make consumer products pricey..

If anybody expected even a few innovations in budgeting this year, they must have been rather disappointed. For Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday presented a budget that dwells mostly on past initiatives, and wants to carry on the unfinished agenda.
However, the agenda his party ruling Awami League served to voters is so huge that any budget would have little room for new things.
Muhith wanted a much higher growth of 6.7 percent for the next fiscal year, and for that he had to plan a bigger investment, mostly in power and infrastructure.
Much of his optimism came from recently emerged good figures that he quoted in the budget speech -- higher capital machinery and raw material imports, higher remittance flow, strong current account surplus, and more private credit supply.
Naturally, his major challenge emerged in revenue collection.
Whether he can collect so much fund, is a question hanging in the balance. This year's impressive revenue collection may make one optimistic. But aiming at a big increase over a big benchmark may prove difficult.
In his effort to rake in higher revenue, the finance minister withdrew truncated value added tax (VAT) and tariff value on a plethora of consumer products and services, which will ultimately affect middle and upper income group people.
The proposed budget envisages a big total expenditure of about 20 percent. The Annual Development Programme (ADP) is projected to increase by a huge 35 percent from this fiscal year's revised budget. This would need a much improved implementation capacity of the government. However, Muhith did not mention much about that capacity enhancement.
Any mismatch in these arenas would certainly take a toll on his growth figure.
This big budget would also pose the challenge of balancing budgetary policy with monetary policy, in order to tackle inflation that is already on a rising curve. The high expenditure is likely to fuel inflation further.
The government's thrust for infrastructure and power would bring in more money than one can imagine on the market, and private sector credit would increase too. All that may pose a tricky situation for the finance minister.
In the proposed budget, Muhith wisely kept Tk 2,000 crore stimulus package for industry, to overcome the aftermath of the recession. This looks like a sound policy stance in the face of the global trend of phasing out stimulus now, as big competitors like China and Vietnam, which received even higher stimulus, are now much strongly posed in the global market. China is even entering Bangladesh's low-end product market.
One place from where a part of Muhith's growth will come is the private-public partnership (PPP) initiative which could not take off this fiscal year. But he mentioned in the budget speech that the guideline for PPP has been readied, and he proposed Tk 3,000 crore for the initiative. This along with the Bangladesh Infrastructure Finance Fund of Tk 1,600 crore would "hopefully" meet the infrastructure needs.
The finance minister earmarked power as the top priority sector with a 60 percent higher allocation, and outlined the path to scale up generation.
He then prioritised some other sectors too, such as shipbuilding, light engineering, and pharmaceuticals. However, it was not clear how these sectors are going to be benefited from being identified as thrust sectors. This has happened because the industrial policy could not be finalised, and a guideline could not be formulated before the budget.
Agriculture has always been the saving grace for the country when other sectors failed. This year also proved to be the same. The proposed budget recognised this contribution of agriculture, but perhaps one would feel that the sector deserved better attention.
The proposed subsidy for the next fiscal year is lower than what has been distributed this year, irrigation received poor attention, and farm credit for the next fiscal year is just minimally higher. If surface water utilisation is high in priority, dredging of rivers received little attention.
The budget also could have given a better employment plan. Merely saying new roads and hat-bazars would be built to generate jobs, leaves much to be desired. Also the employment generation estimate for this year (526 lakh man months), and the next year (621 lakh man months) could be more elaborate.
One area that the finance minister explicitly mentioned, was his plan for privatisation. His commitment that industries which have been sick for 15 years, without any likelihood of being "effective", must exit -- would rightly serve the purpose of saving crucial public fund.
But two crucial areas remain badly neglected in the budget speech -- financial reforms and corruption. One gets no idea of what reforms are on cards for banks. The anti-corruption chapter was probably inserted just for the sake of recognising its existence.
In the tax chapter, the finance minister proposed a lot of reforms and changes in revenue administration and processes. All of those are needed to net in more funds to fuel his big budget.
He proposed to retain regulatory duty on highest slab products, to save the local industry. He also tried to help small and medium enterprises by increasing the ceiling for 4 percent turnover tax -- from Tk 40 lakh to Tk 60 lakh.
However, the logic of taking away the opportunity given to small businesses to pay VAT at a low fixed rate, is hard to understand. And so is not factoring in the effect of inflation on income tax slabs.

Source: The Daily Star
Date: 11/06/2010
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