DHAKA, March 22, 2023 (BSS) - Salman F Rahman, MP, Private Industry and Investment Adviser of the Prime Minister, said today that the government is on the right track to maintain macroeconomic stability in the country given the way it has been reacting to the various challenges owing to global conditions.
"It's true that the country's macroeconomic situation is facing a lot of challenges." But, the way we're reacting, we can say that we're on the right track," he said while addressing a pre-budget discussion of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) for the next fiscal year (FY24) held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital.
State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam, former FBCCI president Md. Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin), and MP spoke as special guests. FBCCI President Md. Jashim Uddin and former FBCCI president and Managing Director of Ha-Meem Group spoke as guests of honor. DCCI president Md. Sameer Sattar moderated the discussion. The editor of The Daily Samakal, Mozammel Hossain, gave the vote of thanks.
Welcoming the suggestions from businesses ahead of the next budget for FY24, Salman said that Bangladesh did well to manage the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. "But, the Russia-Ukraine war was much unexpected for us."
Regarding the shortage of foreign currency reserves in the last few months, he said that the central bank took immediate steps to address the issue, like controlling imports, especially the luxurious items for which the import bills came down at $5 billion in December.
Salman said that the opening up of LCs would be eased further in the coming days, while the foreign currency reserves would be stable by June this year.
He also informed that the single exchange rate would be effective by June this year, while the interest rate cap would be made market-based.
Citing that the country's tax-to-GDP ratio is still lower compared to other countries in the world, the adviser said that there is a need to further widen the tax net, for which automation is very much needed.
He opined that if the revenue board could develop a uniform import duty, it would be possible to address various problems, but the revenue would fall in such a case.
Noting that the small traders in the country are often reluctant to pay tax and VAT, the Adviser said there is a need to change their mindset while the business community leaders should make a serious propaganda about the necessity of paying tax.
About the capital market, he said that there is a basic structural defect, which is the lower number of institutional investors participating in the daily turnover in the bourses, and the participation of the institutional investors must be increased.
He also suggested revitalizing the bond market, giving the same facility to the other export oriented sectors apart from RMG, ensuring diversification of exportable items.
Salman said that the Prime Minister considers the private sector as the 'driving force' of the economy.
State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam said centering the next budget, the aim of the government should ensure that inflation does not increase further, keeping the budget deficit within ceiling while growth does not become stunted.
"There is no way that the next budget becomes ambitious. We'll continue our efforts so that the private sector doesn't face barriers while the private sector credit growth doesn't get hampered. We're also keeping our macroeconomic stability," he said.
Listing the positive trend of some of the major macroeconomic indicators, Dr Alam said that there is no way that the growth of Bangladesh would become negative. "The economy didn't shrink in any aspect."
Mentioning that the FDI fetched $1.34 billion during the July-January period of the current fiscal year while the private sector credit growth reaches 13 percent, he said that the force of the economy is still active.
FBCCI president Md Jashim Uddin suggested giving more attention on revenue collection through not harming the businesses, ensuring export diversification, stress on man-made fibre, enhancing capacity of the NBR, withdrawing duty and tax on import of raw materials of generating power, boosting the facilities of backward linkage industry.
"Our PM has assured us that there will remain no red tape. Hopefully, there will remain no red tape in the next budget," he added.
During the budget discussion, four separate sessions on taxation & VAT, financial sector, industry & trade and infrastructure were held.
In the taxation & VAT session, Zaved Akhtar, CEO and MD, Unilever Bangladesh Limited, Mohammed Humayun Kabir, former president, ICAB and Panel Advisor, FBCCI, Md. Alamgir Hossain, former member, National Board of Revenue (NBR) gave their opinions.
In the session on financial sector, Md. Nojibur Rahman, chairman, Capital Market Stabilization Fund (CMSF) and former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Mashrur Arefin, managing director, City Bank, Dr. Selim Raihan, executive director, SANEM, Arif Khan, vice chairman, Shanta Asset Management Limited and former commissioner, Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) delivered their speeches.
In the session on industry & trade, Asif Ashraf, director, BGMEA, Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and chief executive officer, PRAN RFL Group, and Mohammad Ali Khokon, president, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) made their recommendations for the next budget.
During the session on infrastructure, Imran Karim, vice chairman, Confidence Group, Mohammad Ariful Islam (Arif), country head, Nokia, Mainuddin Monem, managing director, Abdul Monem Limited spoke.