Finance Minister AMA Muhith proposed a Tk1,37,742 crore allocation for women’s development in the proposed budget of 2018-19 fiscal year. This allocation is 29.65% of the total budget and 5.43% of the GDP, the largest for women’s development in the history of Bangladesh. The Dhaka Tribune spoke to women leaders in business, policy makers and activists, to learn how they think this budget allocation will help women’s progress in the coming fiscal year.
Allotting a large amount of fund does not necessarily mean that women will be ensured more benefits in the next fiscal year. The budgetary allocation will be useful only when it is directly and clearly dedicated for women’s development. That will happen when there is a road map, or a clear framework specifying which sectors the money is allocated to and how it will be utilized to benefit women.
The money allocated for the social safety net scheme can help with women empowerment and their security, only if we can ensure their empowerment in reality.
Since the proposed allocation for women will be distributed among different ministries, there should be a specific guideline on how much of that money will be spent for what purpose .
There is an allocation of Tk100 crore in every budget for women’s skill development, but that is never utilized as the budget does not have any indication or guideline on how and where to spend the money.
The raise of the monthly maternal allowance to Tk800 from the existing Tk500 is a good decision.
Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow, BIDS
The FY19 budget allocates a huge fund for women which can surely fuel women’s development, but can be done only if it is implemented properly. A look at last year’s budget, will show that the allocation has not yet been properly used.
The expansion of the budget size is not the matter of concern, but its implementation is.
The budget formulation process did not include specific opinion from women entrepreneurs. This is mandatory to help implement the budget and address their concerns.
Training for businesswomen to develop their skills is required. At present, training is only given for the handicraft sector, but training is needed for broader range of skills, especially in IT. Women who do not have English skills need language training.
Women also need dedicated space in the EPZs, loans with easy conditions and low-interest loans to help them flourish in businesses.
Nasreen Fatema Awal, president, Women Entrepreneur Association of Bangladesh (WEAB)
The budget is huge in size, but its implementation is a matter of concern. We propose that the government form a monitoring unit consisting of economists, researchers and rights activists to monitor whether the gender budget allocations is utilized properly or not.
We need to sit with the government to formulate a plan on how the allocations can be distributed properly.
Ayesha Khanam, president, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad