Ministers and senior MPs from the ruling alliance yesterday in parliament spoke in defence of Finance Minister AMA Muhith and criticised the lawmakers who had attacked him over budget proposals including excise duty on bank accounts.
They said the way MPs, even members of the cabinet, had attacked Muhith since the placing of the budget in the House on June 1 was “unexpected and unacceptable as the finance minister placed the budget as per the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.”
Some senior AL MPs, however, drew a positive tone out of the debate on budget proposals, saying it only proved the present parliament is “vibrant and diversified”.
Taking part in budget discussions in parliament since June 4, many opposition and treasury bench MPs including a number of cabinet members have lambasted Muhith for proposing higher excise duty on bank accounts, 15 percent uniform VAT rate and a slash in the interest rate of savings certificates.
Some of them also attacked Muhith personally for his failure to take actions against those involved in bank scams, corruption and money laundering.
Jatiya Party MPs -- Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu and Kazi Feroz Rashid -- on Tuesday called upon the finance minister to resign with honour due to his old age.
But the tide began flowing in the opposite direction after AL senior MP and Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed gave a speech in parliament on Wednesday extending his support to Muhith.
Tofail even criticized the cabinet members who had lambasted the finance minister in parliament.
In yesterday's budget discussion, no lawmakers, either from the opposition or treasury bench, attacked or criticized the finance minister.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said debates were on everywhere centering on three issues --15 percent VAT rate, excise duty and cutting interest rate of savings certificates.
“Everyone is blaming the finance minister for this. But we will have to remind ourselves that the finance minister has placed the huge size budget as per the prime minister's instructions.”
Hitting back at those who had criticized Muhith, Inu, president of Jatiya Samjtantrik Dal, a component of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance, also said, “It is unfair that you will praise the country's economy and at the same time you will say that the finance minister is a failed minister.
“Success of the economy means the finance ministry is successful and success of the finance ministry means our prime minister is successful.”
Inu, however, recommended that the government suspend the implementation of the new VAT law until next year.
About the excise duty on bank accounts, he said no such duty should be imposed on bank accounts having less than Tk 5 lakh for the sake of the wellbeing of low and middle-class people.
Citing that there are many weak points in the proposed budget, Inu said, “Looting money from the banks continues. The syndicate of corrupt people remains active. We have to destroy the syndicate of corruption.
AL senior MP and Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said there might be both positive and negative sides of the proposed budget. But there is an opportunity to discuss and debate on those issues. A decision will be reached following the debate.
Referring to the criticism of the 15 percent VAT rate, he said the VAT law was passed in parliament in 2012, but nobody raised any objection to it at that time.
Regarding widespread criticism of excise duty, Health Minister Mohammad Nasim said he hoped the finance minister would bring changes in the proposed budget considering what was good for the people.
AL MP Abdul Matin Khoshru said, “We feel proud of a person like the finance minister. The nation was embarrassed for the way some MPs talked about him. He is a senior citizen. What will the nation learn from us if we talk like this in parliament?”
JSD MP Rejaul Karim Tansen saluted the finance minister for placing a time-befitting budget.