Economists for next govt to focus on job creation

The Daily New Age, 06 January 2008

Khawaza Main Uddin

Constrained by limited scope for generating resources for expanding public investments, the incoming Awami League-led government needs to stop or avoid undertaking politically motivated projects and divert the public money to constructive investment for job creation.
   Pointing to the crux of the AL’s economic tasks while in office, economists say the priorities, though set ‘properly’ in its election manifesto, would be daunting challenges for ministers in charge of economic ministries, in view of the sky-high public expectations reflected in the landslide electoral victory.
   A major condition to overcome economic challenges and implement the AL programmes is the choice of the key ministers – those to lead the ministries of finance, planning, commerce, agriculture, food and disaster management, industries, power, energy and natural resources, communications, health and family welfare, and local government, rural development and cooperatives, according to the economists.
   In the light of the manifesto, some of the tricky priority tasks include keeping prices of food items low at the same time providing farmers with fair price of their produces, solving power and gas crises without making delay and creating controversies, massive employment generation without increasing burden of tax, increasing public investments in constructive and social sectors without drawing loans from banking sources and widening budget deficit, attracting foreign direct investment in times of global economic recession and safeguarding exports and remittances from its fallouts, creating business-friendly atmosphere simultaneously continuing anti-corruption measures, improving economic governance despite inheriting an ineffective government machinery, and making a digital Bangladesh obliterating various faces of poverty.
   ‘The Awami League is going to begin with bonus points on price issue, given the downtrend in the international market. But for generating resources and making investments, the government will have to use a few windows like share market and improving utilisation of public money,’ said economist Abu Ahmed.
   He also termed the target of achieving gross domestic product growth at 8 per cent ‘very right and achievable’, should the government be on right track.
   At this age of ‘vibrant media and strong civil society’, apart from the critical role of the opposition, the economist pointed out, the stakeholders themselves would time and again remind the government the status of implementation of the pre-polls promises of the ruling party.
   ‘Awami League is committed to freeing Bangladesh from its current state of crisis and building a country whose citizens are able to live prosperous and happy lives,’ reads the AL manifesto.
   Underlining the need for constituting a taskforce to devise policies and strategies to tackle the fallout of global meltdown, the AL also pledged that it would take steps to promote investment, ensure energy security, retain and enhance domestic demand, safeguard value of money, assist exports, and continue exports of manpower.
   Economist Ananya Raihan said the country’s remittances were already at stake under the impact of recession while the uncertainties over exports could be felt from the beginning of the next fiscal year.
   ‘The scope for generating massive resources all of a sudden is really very limited. The government will have to improve economic governance to utilise resources without leakage, wastage and corruption,’ he said, emphasising consultation and collective decision-making on matters of the national economy and business, going beyond the parochial party interests.
   Among its many promises, the AL pledged formulation of a comprehensive employment guideline for creating employment opportunities in rural economy, providing credit and training for self-employment, creating employment opportunities for wage-labour in industries, promoting sub-contracting arrangements between big and small and medium scale industries, and making special training arrangements for facilitating export of labour.
   Asked how the next government would achieve such goals that require money and investment, both the economists stressed the importance of ‘prudent economic management’ in view of the constraints of money and challenges at home and abroad.

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