Budget fails to heed the pain of pandemic affected

When the death toll and infection number of COVID-19 recorded high in the country, the 49th annual budget of Tk 568,000 crore for 2020-21 shed focus on the mega projects that pose a way of mega corruption.

When people are dying without meeting minimum healthcare, infected are being refused admission into public hospitals, income loss and unemployment set to raise the poverty rate by 36 million, megaprojects are still the priority of the government.

Several politicians, bureaucrats, physicians, law enforcers who used to go to Singapore for mere medical check-up died of COVID-19 without minimum health support as the sector was highly neglected and corruption-riddled. The budget is an ordinary one like past years that fails to consider the consequence of pandemic and learning from it. Protecting human life and livelihood and creating job opportunities while being urgent, infrastructure development is unwanted.

It has been proposed that the health allocation be increased at Tk 29,247 crores in the new budget. A lump sum of Tk 10,000 crore has also been proposed to fulfil emergency requirements in response to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

However, having witnessed the appalling shortcomings of the sector in the face of this crisis, we cannot help but feel that this increase is woefully inadequate. Our healthcare sector has proven itself to be in shambles, and the only way to improve it to a degree that will make some difference is through massive government investment.

Experts in a webinar on Sunday asked the government to divert the mega project’s budget to health, agriculture, education, livelihood support and social safety net programmes as pandemic has a long consequence in the areas.

We must say the unnecessary allocations in the proposed budget should be diverted for emergency medical equipment for the COVID-19 patients dying due to shortage of oxygen and ICU beds. Cash distribution for millions of informal-sector jobless workers can retain the demand for consumption.