We have been trying to draw the government's attention, from the very beginning of the novel coronavirus crisis, to the importance of more transparency, good governance, accountability, and curbing corruption during the pandemic.
Our demand was reflected in the prime minister's announcement as she declared that no corruption in novel-coronavirus-tackling measures would be tolerated. However, the proposed budget points to the complete opposite stance.
The proposed budget provides unlimited scope to legalise untaxed assets – including land, flats, cash, and savings – by undisclosed money holders in the new fiscal year. The government offered them an opportunity to legalise their wealth by paying only 10 percent tax without facing any questions from any state agency in the new fiscal year. It also proposed levying a 50 percent penal charge on laundered money.
This is totally unacceptable no matter how the government defends the moves. These will encourage corruption, as well as are self-contradictory, discriminatory and anti-constitutional action.
The declaration of zero-tolerance towards corruption and providing scopes for whitening black money and laundered money are contradictory – defaming the commitment of the prime minister as well.
Scopes for untaxed money investment have never benefited the economy, increased investment or helped revenue collection to reach target. Rather, it has pampered illicit means to accumulate wealth and questioned the government's anti-corruption stance.
The scopes discriminate against the taxpayers and encourage people to be corrupt. We hope the government will back off from this suicidal position. We want to believe that the government is not a hostage to a tiny quarter.
Our health sector did not collapse overnight in the pandemic. Rather, corruption and a lack of good governance, for years, have dragged down the health structure to this vulnerable point – which has been completely exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We expected extra allocations to the health sector in the budget against such backdrop and a specific pathway to fight corruption in the health sector.
However, the proposed budget strengthens protection for the corrupt and rolls out indemnity for them. Do we then have to think that the tiny quarter is so powerful that it does not even hesitate to prove the prime minister's commitment meaningless?
* Executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB)