A holistic reform of the National Revenue Board (NBR), appointing knowledgeable people, is needed to generate gigantic targeted revenue to fund the Tk6.78 trillion national budget for the financial year 2022-2023, observed experts.
They felt that such a constructive change will not only allow the tax administration to significantly increase the tax-to-GDP ratio by gaining the trust of eligible taxpayers, but also ease the growing tax burden on the limited number of taxpayers.
They also suggested that the government should take austerity measures to avoid unnecessary spending, especially at a time when the global economy, including Bangladesh, is facing difficulties following Covid-induced shocks and of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
The experts were addressing a post-budget seminar titled “National Budget and Economic Path” organized recently by the Center for Governance Studies (CGS), where Planning Minister MA Mannan was the chief guest.
CGS Chairman Manjur A Chowdhury chaired the seminar moderated by its Executive Director Zillur Rahman.
Bangladesh Chamber of Industries (BCI) Chairman Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury (Parvez) said NBR is to collect Tk 3.70 trillion and additional Tk 630.0 billion will need to be collected from other sources.
“If we see NBR’s revenue growth over the past five years, it’s around 15%. So with that growth, it would be very difficult for them to achieve such a huge goal,” he said. declared.
“There are about 7.5 million TIN (tax identification number) holders, but only 2.5 million of them pay taxes. There is no visible initiative from the NBR to bring other people under the tax net, but it continues to mount pressure on existing taxpayers,” he added. added.
“Changes will have to be made in the NBR with the appointment of people with good knowledge of different types of taxes. The NBR should be friendly to taxpayers,” he said.
Former President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Mir Nasir Hossain, said the low tax-to-GDP ratio, which has remained almost static for years, poses a challenge to implementation of the proposed national budget.
As a result, he said, the real taxpayers became the victims of new types of taxes.
“We have been calling for the reform and automation of the NBR for a long time, but it has not happened. We are going in the wrong direction. Direct tax must be the first source of income,” he added. .
Former Japan-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JBCCI) President Abdul Haque said there was no direction in the proposed budget to reduce revenue spending to avoid waste. resources, while there is less income.
He suggested not to embark on unplanned development which creates various problems. “We need a massive shift in spending,” he said.
Delivering a keynote address, the Chairman of the Department of Development Studies at the University of Dhaka, Prof. Dr. Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir said that the budget for security and education has shrunk, while that for the sector health was not enough.
Political influence in social security activities results in a lack of inclusion, he added.
He declared the need for a megaproject of ways to raise the tax.
MPs who are the people’s representatives often play no role in budget-making in a constitutional manner, he said.
Finally, he posed the question of whether the economy is really by the people and whether it contributes for the people.
Speaking as a special guest, former Minister of Commerce Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said the allowance for health, education and social welfare should be increased in the prevailing times.
“But unfortunately it is decreasing. The main force in the economy is the SME sector which is not getting the proper policy attention. Inequality increases where the government protects its own people,” he said.
Mr Chowdhury criticized the inadequacy of BBS (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics) data.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said the popular masses are less interested in governance, all they want is living standards, which his party assured.
“The road to governance is a very long process, but first we have to understand what the masses want,” he said.
He said the proposed budget might have many shortcomings, but it is only a draft, and with all the suggestions and criticisms, it will be discussed in parliament and made into a proper budget.