A pandemic budget for fiscal 2020-21 has been placed in parliament, but some concerns remain about the health sector allocation along with hike of internet costs. The other issue is the income tax slab.
As the pandemic has opened the hidden fragile condition of our health sector, most people feel it should get more allocation despite a rise of 13.66 percent but below 1 percent of the GDP.
This has not gone down well with the electorate who feel that the rich and famous have the advantage of special facilities at home as well as ability to travel abroad if sick.
The irresponsible public comment of DGHS exposed one reality — we are far from having minimum requirement to treat our people like intensive care units.
This author has focused on this issue that this is an opportunity to correct our long-neglected health sector which means more to the electorate than anything else to give them the feel of health security.
Even in the cities people are worried what will happen if one is sick and worse if seriously ill due to lack of facilities.
The Finance Minister may like to consider this important factor, while the Anti-Corruption Commission should closely monitor every penny spent to improve the sector. Both the premier and he will be well remembered for taking the corrective measure which will provide health security and save lives.
One area that needs allocation is the research and development in the medical sector with special units in each pharmaceutical company to develop vaccines and new medicines that the country requires.
This R&D will help quick treatment and save foreign exchange.
COVID-19 has brought out the beast in us as people are harassed or turned out from hospitals. This means our medics from top to bottom need to be trained in dealing with the sick not only in crisis times, but also in normal times.
The cost of hospital treatment must be addressed and brought down in private hospitals which is way beyond the reach of all except the wealthy or those who have the benefit of being funded from different sources.
Coming to income tax slab, many find the payment of lowest slab “impossible” due to rising in cost of living especially due to COVID-19 with salary cuts or no payments for months.
The tax-free annual income has been set at taka 300,000 from taka 250,000, but a new tax of 5 percent on annual income of up to Taka 400,000.
In fact, public opinion is very negative on this issue considering the pandemic and requires serious reconsideration. It is likely to be unrealised in a large number of cases. The government should give relief in this budget.
Last, but not the least is the shocking hike of internet and mobile telephone use.
Shocking, because in this pandemic the world has survived on the virtual communications or else it would be an unthinkable disaster. Yet, a 5 percent point increase in supplementary services has been proposed.
In a country like Bangladesh, the charges are still high for the young and thus the “miss call” still persists. They are surviving by talking to friends and families with the mobile phone and thus this step should be written off.
Delivery services or home orders will become more expensive at a time when everyone is being asked to stay home for safety from the deadly disease.
Let us not forget the country’s majority middle-class will be affected seriously in these times of financial hardship which has come as a thunder storm to ravage lives in all possible ways.