ANOTHER year, another budget. Even with our ups and downs and our record of poor governance and mismanagement, Bangladesh has always fared reasonably well when it comes to finance ministers, and the nation's fiscal policy has typically been sound and rational, during good times and bad. Even when all other ministries have been bogged down in inaction and gridlock, the finance ministry has typically been a beacon of sanity.
And so it is with the tenure of A.M.A. Muhith, who has earned plaudits across the board, and whose quiet competence and able stewardship of the economy has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise so-far disappointing year and a half in office for the current government.
Similarly, the budget that he has tabled for the coming fiscal year is one that it is difficult to take great exception to. There may be questions about agricultural allocations and about the budget's assumptions and ambitions, but these are minor ones in the great scheme of things.
The real issue this year, as it is every year, is in the budget's implementation. Putting a workable plan down on paper is the easy part; bringing the plan to fruition is where the rubber really meets the road.
Budgetary analysis is important stuff, and we should not hesitate to focus our attention on the budget's short-comings, as we see them, and to offer suggestions and criticisms, where warranted.
But it is time for the finance ministry and all the other ministries to shift their focus from the policies on paper and to concentrate on implementing that which they have so ambitiously charted out. This may require closer coordination between finance and the other ministries and may make the budget process far more contentious and time-consuming.
Nevertheless, delivery must be the watch-word of this government, and all future ones. After all, what is the point of a well-crafted and timely budget, if there is not a buy in from all relevant sectors, and, as a result, much of what is envisioned ends up unimplemented?
The issue is not the nature of the budget, whether it is ambitious or not, whether it is realistic or now. The issue is not even whether it is implementable or not. The issue is whether it is implemented.