‘Provisions for whitening black money should be reviewed’

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UNB :
Former Foreign Minister and lawmaker from the Sylhet-1 constituency, Dr AK Abdul Momen expressed concerns in Parliament on Thursday regarding the budgetary provision for whitening black money.

“Honest taxpayers have become frustrated due to the announcement in the budget for whitening black money with a payment of 15% tax. I feel that the scope for whitening black money needs to be reviewed,” he stated during the general discussion on the proposed national budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

Addressing several issues of public concern, Momen highlighted the price hike of commodities, employment generation, revenue increase, and the challenges of corruption, extortion, and harassment.

Noting that approximately 80% of the country’s food is produced locally, Momen cited government statistics indicating a surplus in onion and potato production. “Some 3.4 million tons of onions are produced locally, against a demand of 2.8 million tons. Similarly, potato production stands at 10.4 million tons, 2.5 million tons more than the demand. If so, why do the prices of these items go up? There is inaccuracy in our statistics,” he pointed out.
He also discussed the employment crisis, revealing that many citizens seek overseas opportunities due to insufficient local jobs. “According to government statistics, only 3.6% of people are unemployed in the country. However, six out of ten people who come to my office are seeking jobs,” he said.

The lawmaker stressed the importance of the private sector in generating employment and entrepreneurship and highlighted the potential impact of the government’s substantial borrowing from the banking sector.

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“The government is taking Tk137,000 crore in loans to meet the budget deficit, which might deprive private investors of loans. We should be cautious about this,” he warned.

On the topic of revenue collection, Momen described it as a significant challenge, noting that only 3-3.2 million people are taxpayers among the 170 million population, which is the lowest in comparison to neighbouring countries.

He proposed a more inclusive tax net requiring all individuals with a national identity card to submit annual financial statements. “This step could increase the number of taxpayers to 20-30 million instead of the current 3-3.2 million,” he suggested.

The former minister also called for a massive campaign to recover laundered money and supported the introduction of smart cards for remitters to boost remittance, enhance family dignity, and reduce harassment.

“A portion of bureaucrats has become corrupt, which is intensifying harassment of the people. The entire bureaucracy is blamed due to a handful of corrupt bureaucrats,” he said.