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Finance Minister AMA Muhith.

‘Revenue collection target high’

WT24 Desk

Admitting that the revenue collection target in the proposed national budget for fiscal 2015-2016 is high, Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Friday however said the National Board of Revenue (NBR) is prepared enough for this task, UNB reports. “Yes, the target for collecting Tk 176,370 crore revenue by the NBR is pretty high, but previous record is there of achieving around 23 percent revenue collection growth in one year. This time we’ve decided to give such push. Our NBR is prepared enough while its manpower has been increased alongside further training,” he said.

The Finance Minister was responding to a volley of queries from reporters during the post-budget press conference at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the city in the afternoon. Earlier on Thursday, Muhith placed a Tk 295,100 crore national budget for the FY16 eying a 7 percent GDP growth. Muhith said his main feeling was that in order to march forward towards the path of progress and to overcome the seven percent GDP ‘growth barrier’, there is a need to undertake some additional initiatives. “I think that the nation is prepared for such initiative.”

Echoing with the Finance Minister, NBR Chairman Md Nojibur Rahman said the NBR is capable enough of collecting around Tk 2 lakh crore revenue while the proposed target of collecting Tk 176,370 crore revenue is much less than the capacity. He said the Board would be able to achieve such target with their organisational capacity, use of ICT and motivation. About the proposal for slapping 5 percent supplementary duty on services through SIM or RUIM cards, Muhith said such tax is in place in many countries and the country’s mobile phone industry is a mature one.

Responding to another question, the Finance Minister said since the implementation of the budget always remains a big challenge, the government has achieved progress a lot to this end due to various reforms. Regarding the provision of whitening black money or undisclosed money by giving fine, Muhith said he did not keep any scope for saying anything on the issue in the budget speech since provision is there in the income tax law. He said the scope was there in the previous year, and would continue.

About raising the investment on education to around 4 percent of GDP, he said when the nation only gets 11 percent of the GNI as the overall revenue collection, how it is possible to raise the expenditure to 4 percent of GDP? He also reasoned that the monthly allowances of the freedom fighters aged over 65 years has been doubled as the step would include majority of the freedom fighters while the nation also owe to them.

About the slow progress in increasing the number of taxpayers, the veteran Finance Minister said when the AL government assumed office six and a half years back in 2009, the number of taxpayers was only 7 lakh. “But, the number has now increased to 11 lakh which is very slow and low. This time we‘ve planned to give a big push.” In this connection, he said the new taxpayers are likely to be included in the tax net in the upcoming days alongside the old taxpayers following conduction of surveys which would help widen the tax net.

About the proposed budget deficit of Tk 86,657 crore which is within five percent of the GDP, Muhith said the deficit for the last 8-10 years had never gone beyond five percent although it had shot up to 45 percent of GDP soon after the country’s independence. Asked about the method of determining the poverty rate, he said usually there are two standards and the government follows the standard of $1.25 per day.

He said in every country there would always been some people who would depend on the state like the widows, elderly, physically challenged people and they would be under state responsibility. About raising the minimum income tax to Tk 4,000, the Finance Minister said there might be some changes regarding minimum tax following the observation of the last Cabinet meeting so that there is distinction between the city corporation areas and other areas.

Replying to another question, the 81-year-old Finance Minister said Bangladesh has now reached a position where economy often influences politics for which the destructive acts and arson attacks by the BNP-Jamaat during this January-March period have failed to stop everything. He also said he made many proposals in the budget for prosperity assuming that the country would not have face such problems further.

Muhith said considering per capita income, Bangladesh would be a mid-income country soon, likely by the next year, and the report to this end would be placed before the UN by 2018 through which Bangladesh would gain its mid-income status by 2021. He also said the fall in international fuel price has led to a windfall gain for the government. About repeated requests from a number of journalists about the details of the defence budget, Muhith at the very end of his press conference said with a smiling face that there are some questions which could not be answered always. “You’ve to accept it.”

Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal and Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu spoke on the occasion. Besides, Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman, Finance Division Senior Secretary Mahbub Ahmed, ERD Senior Secretary Md Mesbahuddin, NBR Chairman Md Nojibur Rahman and Planning Division Secretary Kazi Shofiqul Azam were present at the post-budget press conference.

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