Farzeen Ferdous, a young entrepreneur and chairman of Oggro Venture, had applied for a loan from the stimulus package last year – announced by the government to counter the devastating impacts of Covid-19 pandemic.
He tried for three months to secure the loan, but failed as the bank placed a flurry of conditions before him. After the unsuccessful attempt to get support from his own country, Farzeen managed to secure Tk3-4 crore in funds from Singapore and other nations in around four months.
Despite the government offering several youth-focused initiatives, Farzeen is among many who did not get the necessary support amid this crisis, and the lion's share of development allocations – made for ministries in the proposed budget of 2021-22FY – is not very youth sensitive either.
Upon analysing the budget allocation for 22 ministries and divisions concerned with youth development, South Asian Network for Economic Modeling (Sanem) found that only two such divisions focused directly on this sector, while the rest lagged behind in terms of allocation.
Sanem further revealed that only 14% of the ADP (Annual Development Programme) allocation for these ministries and divisions is directly youth sensitive, 26% is indirectly sensitive and a staggering 60% is not focused on the youth.
Sanem and ActionAid Bangladesh jointly released the survey results at a webinar on Sunday, adding that just the Technical and Madrasa Education, and Secondary and Higher Education divisions have youth sensitive ADP allocations reaching 83% and 86% respectively.
The report further points out that five ministries and divisions have fallen far behind in terms of ADP allocation in accordance with the Eighth Five Year Plan. Bigger allocations would have helped these ministries focus more on youth development.
Besides, Bangladesh's share in the global online labor supply has declined steadily compared to the previous years, but neighbouring India's share is growing. Bangladesh's share in this sector was 18.8% in FY17-18, which dropped to 12.2% in FY20-21.
India's share was 25.7% in FY17-18, and it jumped to 33.5% in FY20-21, the report said. Commenting on the situation while addressing the webinar, young entrepreneur Farzeen
Ferdous said, "After we received Tk50 lakh from abroad in a local bank under service contract, they took away Tk5 lakh.
"The taxation is excessive too. Such factors are making it very difficult to do business here." He continued, "My own country could not support me, but other countries managed to do it.
Banks will idly sit on the money the government is offering as soft loans, instead of distributing them to young entrepreneurs. The proposed budget practically has nothing for the youth."
'Ministries need further coordination'
Quoting another Sanem report released last year, speakers said around 80% self-employed youths had reported decline in profit, while more than 57% wage-employed youths reported decline in wages. They also alleged that though the government is offering a number of youth-focused initiatives, those are not being implemented properly at the grassroots level.
Raising questions about why the budget allocation is not reaching the grassroots communities, lawmaker Nahim Razzak as the chief guest said, "I feel exhausted when visiting my constituency. The government has many initiatives.
"Government officials who are tasked to support the grassroots level must be held accountable. The 22 line ministries involved with this sector need further coordination."
On the issue, Sanem Executive Director Dr Selim Raihan said, "Budget allocation for the youth is inadequate and there are questions surrounding whether it is being spent properly."
Reiterating the statement, speakers at the event said the proposed budget is not youth- friendly. The government's initiatives on the issue must not remain only on paper, action must be taken too, they added.
Speakers also spoke in favour of easing the regulations, cutting the bureaucratic red tape, ensuring transparency and accountability and modernising the technical education on par with market demand to boost youth development.
ActionAid Country Director Farah Kabir presided over the webinar, while Dhaka University Professor Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha and SANEM's Research Director moderated the programme. The organisation's Senior Research Associate Eshrat Sharmin presented the keynote.
Secondary and Higher Education Division's Additional Secretary Md Hsasnul Islam and Ministry of Social Welfare's Additional Secretary Mohammad Ismail also participated in the event among many others.