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Economists sketch out prioritized areas for 7th 5-Yr Plan

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Staff reporter

Economists on Wednesday said more emphasis needs to be given on resource mobilization, raising the investment and tax ratio to GDP, addressing the problems in energy resources, ensuring transparency, reducing income inequalities and building skilled human resources in the 7th Five Year Plan (2016-2020).

The observations came when the teachers of Department of Economics of University of Dhaka attended a views-exchange meeting on the 7th Five Year Plan held at the NEC conference room.

Organized by the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal attended the meeting as the chief guest. GED member Prof Shamsul Alam presented a draft outline of the Plan.

The Planning Division Secretary and members of the Planning Commission were also present.

The theme of the 7th Five Year Plan is 'Accelerating Growth: Empowering Every Citizen'.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Barket e Khuda of the university said although poverty has been alleviated by half over the last few years, still there is income inequality and this has worsened.

Voicing concern over the rise in educated unemployment rate, he said every year some two million people enter the job market of which half a million remained unemployed. "This also raises the overall cumulative educated unemployment rate."

Citing the trend of corruption and leakages in the utility services like gas and electricity, Barket e Khuda said this should be addressed with a lot of prudence.

Putting importance on ensuring proper infrastructural development, Prof Dr Momtaz Uddin Ahmed said the country's current investment ratio to GDP now hovering at 27.5 percent and efforts should be there in the 7th Plan to raise it to 35-40 percent.

Citing some sorts of mismanagement at the State Owned Commercial Banks and at the State Owned Enterprises (SoEs), he said the government cannot continue to incur loss thousands of crores of Tk every year through operations at the SoEs as these could be privatized through offloading of shares.

Dhaka University’s Economics Department chairman Md Ali Taslim said the 7th Plan would have to be undertaken considering infrastructural problem, political stability and governance while the real impetus of growth should have to come from education and skill development.

To ensure steady growth, he said, there is a need for having proper institutions where governance is a factor. "Specific focus should have to be there in the 7th Plan to build these institutions."

About some level of fragility in the financial sector, the Dhaka University professor said attention should be there in the upcoming plan so that such problems do not recur.

He said some 8 million Bangladeshis are now working abroad sending around some $ 14 billion as remittance per year and this amount could be raised to a significant number if proper education and skill of the Bangladeshi workers are ensured.

Prof Dr Farid Uddin Ahmed advocated for raising the Tax-GDP ratio as well as creating a tax-friendly environment since the budget size would stand at about Tk 6-7 Lakh crore at the end of the 7th Plan period.

He also proposed imposing minimum Tk 50,000 tax against having flats in posh areas like Gulshan, Dhanmondi and Baridhara, maintaining qualitative standard of education and due emphasis on public transport.

Speaking on the occasion, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the competency of a country not only depends on its investment, but also depends on transforming investment into productivity. "This investment should have to be transformed into real economy."

He said the country's economy is doing well in both macro and micro sectors since the economy is moving forwards not backwards. "We'll have to utilise our resources and reach the benefits to people."

Prof Dr Shafique uz Zaman said the upcoming challenge for Bangladesh is the energy resources although there has been frequent talks and emphasis on renewable energy.

He also underscored the need for completing the development projects within the timeframe, completing the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh highways into four lanes on urgent basis and allocating around one percent of GDP to research and development.

Prof Nazma Begum said transparency and good governance seem to be a big problem towards inclusive growth and if these could be have been ensured, the country would have fared much better.