The print and electronic media of the country have proposed that the government withdraw the existing import duty on newsprint and reduce the corporate tax imposed on newspapers and television channels in the budget for the forthcoming fiscal 2021-22.
Newspaper editors and high officials of various television channels made the recommendations in a pre-budget discussion with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Thursday.
In a press briefing after the virtual meeting, the finance minister said he would sincerely review the recommendations put forward by the media and try to meet them in the next budget.
Newsprint – one of the major raw materials in the newspaper industry – is subject to 5% import duty. The newspaper industry as a whole has to pay 32.5% tax.
The Newspaper Owners' Association of Bangladesh (Noab) in its budget proposal demanded that the import duty be withdrawn and corporate tax be reduced to 12% like that in the ready-made garment industry.
The finance minister said the editors also proposed to ensure food security, provide incentives to attract educated youths to the agriculture sector and popularise rooftop gardening in the urban areas.
They also suggested taking special initiatives to improve the quality of education in the universities, he said, adding some of the editors suggested making more efforts to stop waste of money in development projects.
Asked by reporters about the food situation in the country, the finance minister said incentives would be provided in the budget so that educated people could be involved in agriculture. "We will also support those who want to shift from conventional agriculture to modern agriculture. The government will do everything necessary to strengthen agriculture."
Regarding the spike in rice prices and the food crisis, he said, "Although Bangladesh claims to be self-sufficient in food, it basically depends on the behaviour of nature. In a year when nature is normal, this claim proves right."
He further explained, "If all the land in the country can be cultivated with full efficiency, then it will be possible to become self-sufficient in agriculture. But if that cannot be done for any reason, the self-sufficiency does not sustain. Boro cultivation in the country suffered last year."
"India, Cambodia and Thailand – all have deficits, more or less. Due to the effect of the coronavirus, farmers in no country were able to do agricultural work properly. Therefore, prices have gone up, as the supply in the international market has also decreased. If the supply is right, prices will come down."
According to the public relations wing of the Ministry of Finance, the virtual meeting was attended by The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam, Bangladesh Pratidin Editor Naem Nizam, Bangladesh Television Director General Sohrab Hossain and Channel-i Director Shykh Siraj.
Besides, Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder, Financial Institutions Secretary Asadul Islam, NBR Chairman Abu Hena Rahmatul Munim and Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir also participated in the meeting.