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The debate has been lively. Members from both the Treasury and Opposition benches have put the proposed national budget for the fiscal year 2017-18 under intense scrutiny. Finance Minister AMA Muhith is not being spared even by Treasury Bench members, some of them ministers. In presenting his 4 trillion taka budget Muhith has been receiving both bouquets and bricks. Bouquets, of course, largely from the members of the governing AL-led alliance, while criticisms from the opposition.
This is for the 11th time Muhith has presented the national budget, a remarkable feat indeed. This recognizes his experience and wisdom in handing such an explosive subject under, of course, the constant guidance and glare of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a leader of great achievements in all aspects of national life with focus on politics and economy. This is the largest ever budget in the history of Bangladesh, about 26 per cent bigger than the outgoing 2016-17 one. It has projected a highly impressive GDP growth at 7.4 per cent, compared with the current GDP growth at 7.24 percent.
Muhith deserves credit for this remarkable progress in the country’s march to become a middle income nation by 2021. However, the credit finally goes to the prime minister but for whose guidance and leadership the nation could not have achieved this success. In governing a nation a government, in spite of its good intentions, witnesses highs and lows. This has happened with Sheikh Hasina’s government too. What has been morale lifting for this nation is that the prime minister, true to her commitment and devotion to public interest, has responded to the people’s aspirations whenever it has been asked for. In her the people of Bangladesh have reposed their unflinching faith. She has delivered the right thing at the right moment. As she is responsive to the wishes of the people she amends without any delay if anything unpalatable is offered. In the debate on budget Sheikh Hasina, who is also the leader of the house, listens carefully what the members say, takes notes and makes her preparation to act when her turn comes. She has her ears open to observations made outside the parliament. She does it as she is the people’s prime minister. As the prime minister she has played her role in guiding the preparation of the budget and the approval of the proposals in the Cabinet which met to discuss this particular subject under her chair. Since the presentation of the statement of government’s proposed expenditures and revenue income for the financial year beginning July 1, 2017 Sheikh Hasina has been keenly taking in the comments of legislators during the House debate. She will make her replies and she is expected to respond some of the demands made by the lawmakers about some of the proposals. The final touches will come only from the prime minister.
Until then the debate, a healthy debate indeed, continues. The public expectations are varied and complex too. To become a populist can be a temptation for any statesman. But populism is not always an answer to deal with the complex economic and financial issues confronted by a country like Bangladesh which has been witnessing an upswing in the recent years. Pragmatism is also called for in effective management of the economy keeping the focus right on public welfare. An economy that has attracted attention of even some developed nations in the success to sustain a robust economic growth can go on with new energy and life injected in it. What the prime minister knows better than anyone else in her government and party is that no harm can be done to public welfare. People’s interests, both in short and long terms, must be upheld.
She will not disappoint the people.