Power, infrastructure to get priority in upcoming budget: Muhith

Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday said education, health, power, energy, and infrastructure would get priority in the upcoming budget.

He said the next budget would be placed in the House on June 7 and this would be the last budget of the current government.

“The size of the budget will be Tk 460,000 crore,” he said.

He was talking to the board of directors of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry led by its president, Abul Kasem Khan, when they called on him at the secretariat.

Muhith hoped that corruption in government offices would come down to a minimum level within five to 10 years.

He also hinted at a cut of the corporate tax in the next budget from the existing 35 percent, citing that a good number of young people were now paying taxes.

“I am hoping for the corporate tax to be reduced and it is under consideration,” he said.

He, however, said the demand for the corporate tax to be fixed at 25 percent was an extremely ambitious one.

According to the minister, only 14 lakh people pay tax while there are 30 lakh taxpayer identification numbers.

“The young generation pays tax willingly and their age limit is about 40 years. I think I will provide tax cards to all taxpayers. The higher taxpayers will get a tax card of a different colour,” he said.

The minister said he plans to bring a good reform in the tax system on the basis of the young taxpayers.

On tax evasion, the finance minister said it happened not only in Bangladesh but also around the world. But the number of people evading tax is high in Bangladesh.

He also hinted at reviewing the interest rate of savings certificates as there was a big gap between bank deposit rates and that of savings certificates. At present, savings certificates offer an average interest rate of 12 percent while the bank deposit rate is 5.18 percent.

“Normally the savings certificate interest is one percentage point higher or slightly more than the bank deposit rate. But this time the difference is very large,” he said, blaming the sudden liquidity crisis in banks for the gap.

The minister said the government was putting emphasis on large infrastructure projects, including those in the power sector.

So, big investors like Japan and China are coming to Bangladesh and have started competing to get contracts, he said.

About China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, Muhith said the government debarred the company from the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane construction project for corruption. The company was engaged in corruption on getting the contract, he said.

The minister, however, said, “Though we have debarred China Habour from the Dhaka-Sylhet highway project, we could not debar it from other projects due to engagement of many parties.”

On investment, he said investments were still dependent on the banking system which was wrong.

He put emphasis on the capital market for investment as currently no specialised bank for investment existed in Bangladesh.

The DCCI president placed a budget proposal before Muhith, saying, “Our investment to GDP ratio needs to be increased from existing 29 percent to nearly 35 percent to accelerate development.”

Liquefied natural gas is a short-term solution for meeting energy needs and its price must be fixed keeping in mind the competitiveness of industries and businesses, he said.