Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hoo-haa about the budget

In one of the poorest countries of the world, where 80% go without basic necessities, the high and mighty find that the cost of mobile phone SIM cards is the subject that matters above all else. They can find no other pressing subjects to discuss. Here, we have to support the finance Minister when he retorts that the foreign mobile companies are fleecing customers with the highest call charges in South Asia. Indian operators charge a lot less. It shows how weak or non-existent our regulators are.
Everyman and his dog wants to comment on the budget. We feel disinclined to join the bandwagon. A budget is merely the financial mirror of an economic plan. If the economic strategy or plan is wrong, why get so worked up about the budget? Unless of course you belong to a business association and want to lobby for concessions.
By now, everyone will have said their piece and forgotten about this. Could they instead think about what strategic decisions need to be made. Once those priorities are decided, it is relatively straightforward to produce a budget.
Meanwhile, the general public can only see prices go up and the state of our infrastructure go down. In a land where at least one Taka in three is stolen, the budget is a tool for only three groups:
q Politicians to buy votes
q Big business to get benefits
q Contractors to overcharge on tenders
Oh, and economists to show us they really do know what is happening.

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