Sheikh Hasina on Thursday became the first Bangladeshi Prime Minister to present the national budget in Parliament after her ailing finance minister was unable to deliver his speech. Finance Minister A H M Mustafa Kamal, 72, was unwell when he arrived in Parliament from a hospital where he was admitted for overnight. He also took part in a Cabinet meeting ahead of the presentation of the budget.
The nature of his illness is not known yet. Kamal, who was presenting his maiden budget, began delivering his speech at around 3.07 pm (local time) in Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament) in line with the parliamentary practice.
But he fumbled at the beginning of his speech, prompting Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury to permit him to deliver his address while seated. The finance minister, however, still found it difficult to read out his speech. He then proposed to the Speaker that Prime Minister Hasina be allowed to read out the rest of his speech.
The Speaker endorsed the proposal and requested Hasina to present the budget, after which she took over and read out the proposals. While reading when a reference of her appreciation came in the speech, the premier smiled and said: "the honourable Speaker, this is not my speech, I am reading it out the finance minister's speech."
Hasina presented the Taka 5,23,000 crore (5.23 trillion) budget, proposing a pension scheme for all. The budget aims a growth target of 8.2 per cent, which is 8.13 per cent higher than that of the outgoing fiscal despite a projected deficit of Taka 1,45,000 crore (1.45 trillion), some 28 per cent of the total budget. The budget, however, expects to create some 10 million new jobs particularly by establishing 100 Economic Zones (EZs) across the country. It also proposes an allocation of Taka 100 crore (1 billion) as startup capital to promote youth entrepreneurship.
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