MPs don’t have a say in budget, policy: Saber

Even ruling party lawmakers do not get a chance to have a say in the making of the national budget or policies, MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury has said.

“The parliamentarians are in parliament only to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” the Awami League leader said at a post-budget dialogue organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue on Saturday.

“Former finance minister AMA Muhith at least consulted the chiefs of the parliamentary standings committees. He himself took notes. But that hasn’t happened this year,” Saber said, criticising Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.  

“I don’t think he (Kamal) had a discussion with any committee. Parliament does not actually matter much for discussions in the system of Bangladesh.”      

Planning Minister MA Mannan also attended the event presided over by the think-tank’s Chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan.

After hearing from the other participants, Saber said, “Many of you’ve said budget must be inclusive and sustainable. It must also be ensured that there is no waste.”

“But we need a basis for the discussion, debate or dialogue. How will we do that?” asked the former organising secretary of the Awami League.

“We are in parliament to raise and explain the public’s demand. But how will we raise the issues if we are not involved in the process?”

He said the process to make the budget has a “huge shortcoming” and the government should “fix it”.

“If we think that we will pass whatever the government gives, then there is no need for a budget.”

Saber questioned the ruling party’s reaction to the budget. “They always hail the budget. How will accountability be created if they do not participate in the budget discussion?”   

“The proposed budget does not change much. Some MPs raise some points, and these are accepted, but the main structure does not change,” he said.

“It means parliament or the MPs cannot do much in bringing qualitative changes to the budget in this process.”