Home | Back Issues | Contact Us | News Home
“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 247
December 03, 2011

This week's issue:
Rights Monitor
For Your Information
End Violence Against   Women
Law Book Review
Law Event
Law Week

Back Issues

Law Home

News Home


Governance Update

Peoples' participation in our national budget

Syeda Nasrin

Box No 1.

Our Constitution does not use the term “Budget”. But the implication and operation of Chapter II of our Constitution carries the prima facie evidence of formulating budget. Whereas; budget is an Annual Financial Statement (AFS) of any country, therefore there is no way of avoiding except formulating budget in way of making AFS. National parliament is the sole authority to prepare an AFR/AFS i.e. budget for every year. In the end of every Financial Year (FY) a national budget is to be prepared by the parliament for the upcoming FY giving into effect from the 1st day of July which placed before parliament for open discussion and further assented by the President. Aftermath, the relevant enactments and statutes in connection with finance operation like Finance Act, Income Tax Ordinance, 1984, Value Added Tax Act, 1991, Customs Act, 1969 etc need to be amended accordingly. A twist in budget enactment process is that upcoming budget shall be placed before parliament but shall not be laid for voting. Article 89 (1) of the Constitution of The People's Republic of Bangladesh reads out “[Whereas;] “(1) so much of the [AFS] as relates to expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Fund may be discussed in, but shall not be submitted to the vote of, Parliament.”(Underlines emphasized).This provision mostly frustrates the effective indirect participation of the people in budget formulation stage through their representatives of parliament. There is no local, national or any other forum where the people of Bangladesh can partake for evaluating their national budget. Mere evaluation is quite simple; any people from anywhere can evaluate budget. But this requires a recognized, nationally well constituted forum. Mere recognized forum is not enough to bring the darkness of budget into light. An evaluation remains valueless and ineffective unless or until the outcomes of such evaluation reflects in the budget or accelerates the process the national budget making process. Respecting this issue our top-to-bottom national budget making process almost fails to ensure the effective participation of our people at large. Development of this top-to-bottom budget formulation construes by the following stages,-

Box No 2.

Attainment of “participatory democracy” is fixed as one of target of “Vision 2021” (para no. 8 of of the National Budget Speech of FY 2010-2011 by Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Minister, Ministry of Finance on 30.06.2010 before the House of the Nation). The scenario of participation of the people of Bangladesh is illustrated in para no. 6 of this year national budgetary speech of the contemporary Finance Minister Dr. Muhith in the following words“[w]hile preparing the budget, I met with the renowned economists, members of parliament, journalists, development experts and secretaries of different ministries in eight different pre-budget discussion sessions. Besides, I have exchanged ideas with the peasants at the Baradhul Bazar of Kamarkhand upazila in Sirajganj district and listened to their views about the forthcoming budget. All of them gave their opinions on budget preparation from their own perspectives. I wish to put on record my sincere thanks to various socio-economic institutions, business associations and NGOs, think tanks and research groups, professionals and members of intelligentsia and above all, the Hon'ble Chairpersons of a number of parliamentary standing committees and other members of parliament for their valuable suggestions.” If human rights are to have real meaning, they must be linked to public participation. A common debate about both 'rights' and 'citizenship' is whether these are genuinely universal and participation must be preceded by empowerment of the people. The sense of empowerment along with a sense of legal entitlements and constitutional guarantees gives rise to a political consciousness based on rights. A process of political empowerment and a sense of rights empower citizens to participate in the public sphere. People-centered advocacy can be an effective way to link rights and participation. However, the challenge is how to transform this linkage into an emancipator politics that would help the poor emerge from the structural inequalities that perpetuate poverty. One further cardinal reason, therefore, why as citizens we must gather, share information to enable us effectively monitor and influence government budget making, so that 'FRUGALITY' in Rivers State, for example, must not continue to amount to empty words. The human capacity building and education is the best way for encouraging and ensuring participation in national/local budgetary work. This highlights the multiple lines of accountability between state and citizen, donor and recipient.

The people of Bangladesh are very responsive and participatory. They are used to response almost in all occasions of Govt. For that reason doing any development work with the participation of the people is very easy in Bangladesh. Enhanced participation of grassroots citizens can ensure formulation of a more pro-people and effective national budget. To ensure balanced and uniform developments and bringing the backward areas to the mainstream national advancements, there is no alternative to involving the grass root level people in formulating the national budgets. Sustainable, uniform and smooth developments of all areas and regions would be hampered and welfare of every citizen be affected without knowing problems and exploring potentials and needs of every area. The area-based local economic potentials could not be properly explored in the prospective agriculture, animal husbandry, poultry, diary, weaving, handlooms, and mineral resources including coals, silk and other sectors without taking local opinions. There are several forms of participation like direct and indirect participation in pre/post budget stage which indicates voluntary participation, forced participation. 'Forced Participation' means that public has no alternative other than simply obey by the mandate of budget against their will. This is also known as 'unwanted participation'. Details have been illustrated in the following diagram:

The writer is Legal Associate Hoque & Associates, Dhaka.


© All Rights Reserved