Pre-budget discussion halted amid coronavirus scare

The traditional pre-budget discussion between the finance ministry and the stakeholders, including parliament members, economists, think-tanks and chamber bodies, scheduled to begin today has been postponed for the ongoing 10-day public holiday due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal was scheduled to lead the finance ministry at the meeting with the chairmen of the parliamentary standing committees on the specific ministries, including finance and planning, and on public accounts in the capital.

An official close to the finance minister said that the pre-budget discussion, an important exercise by the finance ministry for preparing the annual budget, would remain suspended until the vacation was over.

The 10-day vacation started on March 26 and will end on April 4.

The finance minister, according to Finance Division officials, was also scheduled to lead a series of pre-budget meetings with economists, think-tanks, chamber bodies in the next one week.

The officials said that they received useful recommendations from the meetings.

Not only the preparation of the new budget but also the revision of the current fiscal budget has been disrupted due to COVID-19 as the government wants citizens to maintain physical distance to check the spread of the deadly virus, they said.

Another important meeting of the Coordination Council on the national budget and the macro-economic situation, led by the finance minister, scheduled to be held on April is unlikely, they said.

The size of the new budget and the priorities of various sectors against the backdrop of local and international situations are mainly discussed by the Coordination Council at least twice a year.

However, the revision of the annual development programme — a key part of the national budget — was completed, said the officials.

On March 19, the National Economic Council at a meeting cut the ADP size by Tk 9,800 crore to Tk 1,91,921 crore from the projected Tk 2,02,721 crore.

The entire cut was in the foreign aid as the contribution of the local resources has been retained at Tk 1,30,927 crore.

The pre-budget discussion that the National Broad of Revenue started on March 19 with Bangladesh Ceramic Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association has also been halted due to the vacation.

According to the NBR schedule, a total of 28 meetings were scheduled to be held with the representatives of more than 50 sectors and trade bodies by April 19.

The revenue board was also expected to arrange several meetings in divisional cities. (Source: New Age)

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