Finance Minister AMA Muhith announced yesterday a reduction in the value added tax rate for businesses in the coming fiscal year, when the government aims to implement the New VAT law.
"We will give you a more comfortable rate," he said in a discussion on the national budget, organized jointly by the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the Bangladesh Federation and Of the private television channel NTV at the Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
When reporters later asked him about the possible reduction in VAT rates, he refused to disclose further details.
In addition to the new VAT law and the VAT rate, business cost problems and incentives to encourage investment and exports were also discussed.
Mr. Mannan, Minister of State for Finance and Planning, and Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, BNP Leader and former Trade Minister, also participated in the discussion.
The debate began with Chowdhury questioning the recent economic growth figures given the slow private investment, youth unemployment, loan scams in banks and the reserve crisis at the Bank of Bangladesh .
"Growth figures are debatable. I'm not the only person – many economists have raised the issue."
There is a stagnation in various fields, but stable economic growth seems to materialize according to official statistics. He described the phenomenon as "jobless growth".
"This means that quality investments do not take place. This is due to the unrepresentative nature of the government."
In response, Mannan said the government has taken various reform measures to reduce the cost of its business and encourage investment.
He stated that inflation is declining, while food supply has remained stable
"It is not a deterioration in the standard of living," added Mannan.
Muhith said that the country has made a lot of progress since 2006, the last time a government led by the BNP was in charge.
"How can a person deny this fact? I do not understand," he said, while citing rural-urban integration as one of the major transformations over the last decade.
"Now the rural-urban divide does not prevail," he said, adding that integration brings the economy to a new level of development.
Chowdhury said that the reform programs carried out by the past government of the BNP were the main factor in the economic growth of the private sector.
About the mega projects undertaken by the current government, he said that project costs were higher than in China and Europe.
He alleged that there is a lack of accountability in the government.
The leader of the BNP said that huge sums of money are siphoned abroad, and when the names of people behind capital flight are sought, some names of politicians appear.
He also raised the issue of bank loans scams.
Chowdhury also addressed the reserve stroke at the central bank and said that the report of the investigation was still to be made public despite repeated promises by the Minister of Finance.
At one point, Muhith said it is unfortunate that the policy has resumed discussion of the economy.
In response, Chowdhury said that politics and economy go hand in hand.
Muhith, pointing to Chowdhury, said: "Your speech has politics, not economy. Your comments do not reflect reality."
Chowdhury said he used figures from government agencies. "Did I make any data?"
Later, Mannan pointing to Chowdhury said: "You had no philosophy and vision for development. We gave it to the nation."
Mustafa Jabbar, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, said that Bangladesh had the opportunity to be connected to the submarine cable in 1992 , But the BNP government refused the opportunity.
Muhith, responding to comments from companies, said the reduction in oil prices would have helped the economy grow faster. "It was my failure that I could not reduce oil prices," he added.
Businesses at the event demanded: reductions in the cost of business deals, incentives for entrepreneurs creating jobs, tax reduction and other barriers to importing technology that respects The environment, protection of national industries, human resource development and increased allocations for education and health in the budget for the fiscal year 2017-18.