Policymakers and economists on Sunday called for increasing allocation in the social security sector in the upcoming budget by emphasising inflation prevention.
To deal with the global economic downturn, they said, it is necessary to formulate a people-friendly budget for fiscal 2022-23.
The speakers made the remarks at a programme titled "People's Budget Assembly 2020" organised at the Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban of the Dhaka University jointly organised by the daily Bonik Barta and Democratic Budget Movement.
Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Minister Tajul Islam and State Minister for Planning Shamsul Alam assured that the budget would be prepared to keep in view the current situation.
Professor MM Akash, chairman of the economics department at Dhaka University, said the war in Ukraine broke out even before the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Then there is the rise in prices of imported goods and ship fares around the world. As a result, prices of commodities, especially food items, have gone up. Prices have risen by 16-40%. It has made people eat less," he said.
"So making a budget is a challenge in two ways. One is to control the prices of daily necessities. So that inflation is under control. The other challenge is we have to keep in mind that there should be political stability," added the economist.
Amanur Rahman, vice-president of the Democratic Budget Movement, said that in the current reality, a life cycle dependent universal social security structure is needed.
"According to the government, the poverty rate in Bangladesh has come down to 20.5% in 2019, but due to the impact of the pandemic, people have fallen below the poverty line. On top of this, the prices of essential commodities are rising because of the global economic downturn," he said.
"Therefore, it is necessary to increase the budget allocation in the social security sector. The government have to provide work to the unemployed and an unemployment benefit for the unemployed. It has to provide everything necessary," he added.
Tajul Islam said that the issue of inflation is being discussed all the time.
"We are preparing the budget with all considerations in mind," he added.
Shamsul Alam said that this time the allocation for social security will be increased. The government is also keen on creating skilled people.
He said that the issue of issuing health cards for all has come up in the discussion. Such a project can be taken up.
Barrister Rumeen Farhana, a lawmaker from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), said that the country has the lowest allocation in the health sector in South Asia.
"The opinion of the people should be taken into consideration. People need to know whether they want roads, hospitals or schools in their areas. But now everything takes place at the instructions of the centre," she added.
Dewan Hanif Mahmud, the editor of Bonik Barta, also spoke on the occasion.