Debate rages over economy

Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday said the predictions made by multilateral lending agencies about Bangladesh's economic growth do not reflect the reality in most cases although those appear logical.
Muhith said it in response to BNP's Standing Committee Member Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan.
Quoting the Asian Development Bank, Khan said growth would be 6.2 percent in the current fiscal year, down from the government's projection of 7 percent.
On the ADB's Asian Development Outlook 2012, Muhith said, such predictions were also made by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
"In our country, some (economists) also do the same," Muhith said.
"In many instances, it appears logical. These predictions do not always reflect the reality," Muhith said on a live TV show on the upcoming budget.
Private television station NTV and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) organised the programme at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.
Muhith also said five risks mentioned by Khan were meaningless.
Earlier Khan, referring to the ADB report, said economy faces several risks including fragile balance of payments, high inflation, pressure of subsidy to generate electricity through rental power plants and slowdown in exports.
"Because of these, the economy is under stress. The whole economy has nosedived," said Khan, adding that growth would slow to 6.2 percent this fiscal year.
Khan also expressed doubt over the implementation of the next budget, which the government wants to keep at nearly Tk 190,000 crore.
In the first eight months of the current fiscal year, 38 percent of Annual Development Programme has been implemented. At this rate, total implementation rate will be 57 percent, said Khan. The implementation rate of foreign funded projects has also been low, he added.
But Muhith said the major challenges in the next fiscal year would be how to accelerate growth, reduce subsidy, cut the government's borrowing from banks, improve efficiency in using foreign aid and curb inflation.
Despite these challenges, he said his ministry would frame a budget to maintain the overall macroeconomic stability.
Muhith also defended the proposed size of the budget for the next fiscal year at Tk 190,000 crore, saying it is conservative from the perspective of the potential and risks of the economy.
Given the current global economic situation, there is no scope to be ambitious, he said.
Labour Minister Engineer Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Prime Minister's Energy Adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, former commerce minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Centre for Policy Dialogue Executive Director Mustafizur Rahman and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Md Shafiul Islam also spoke.
FBCCI President AK Azad moderated the discussion, also joined by businessmen from Chittagong and Khulna.

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