Some of the initiatives taken in the budget to create employment are certainly positive. The hope is that those can be implemented in reality and only then will positive results come. The main problem with job creation remains the stagnation of investment in the private sector which has been going on for many years. This has been acknowledged in this year's budget.
Investments in the private sector have been stuck at 22-23% of the gross domestic product. If private sector investment can be accelerated and economic zones can be materialised as soon as possible, then domestic employment generation will be successful.
The "Directorate of Employment", which is being talked about, may facilitate these. At the same time, I have seen any major departure in this year's budget focused on stimulating private sector job creation. At a time when we are witnessing a global crisis due to the Covid-19 and a war situation, the budget has not made it clear how private sector investments can grow.
We need to focus more on the private sector in order to create jobs. At the same time, micro, small and medium enterprises will need renewed focus. We have seen that those, too, suffered during the pandemic. This time around, they have been hit hard by price hikes, raw materials and supply side disruptions.
These enterprises also employ a lot of people. Their problems have been acknowledged, but I don't see much effort to revive them. I don't want the Directorate of Employment" to be ineffective like many other government agencies. Instead, it should be a highly prioritised division. Its terms of reference should be pragmatic. Experience of different countries can be taken into account and it should be looked at whether they have such an institution or not.
Skill is also mentioned in every budget, but at the moment it is a big challenge. We are not in a position to supply skilled manpower to even 10 out the 100 functional economic zones. As investments start to grow in the south of the country, skilled manpower will be required there as well. I do not see the importance of skill development as it should be.
I don't see any action plan on the skills required for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and export diversification. Until these happen in a programme-based manner, it will not have the expected impact on our economy.
Overseas employment also varies from year to year. Now, a global recession is going on. Compared to previous years, the same amount of people may not go abroad this year. So, I would say maintaining the current trend of employment abroad should be the first target and then to see if that could be increased further.
I also don't see any harm in keeping the 2.5% incentive on remittances. The major challenge, in this case, will be the difference in the exchange rate of the dollar. The budget must reduce the gap between the official and external rate of the dollar, to provide more incentive to remitters. Migrant workers have not received the kind of services they need inside or outside the country. There is no provision in the budget to give them the respect and facilities they deserve according to their contribution. I feel they have been neglected this time as well.