Separate child budget badly missing for last three years
Children suffered more during the Corona period, but there is hardly any way for them to recover with the proposed budget. Not only in the fiscal year 2022-23, also in the budgets of the previous two fiscal years of the Corona period, the 'Children's Budget' was not published separately. The latest children's budget was given in 2019-20 which later remained unmet.
According to the 2013 Children's Act, children in the aged from zero to 18 are considered where 40 percent of the total population of Bangladesh belongs to this age group. Those are more than seven cores in number.
The then Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith was the first to present a report titled 'Budget Thoughts for Children' in the national budget of 2015-16. Later this budget was given till 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20 fiscal year. Later it stopped due to an accident.
Even previously, the government has promised to spend 20 percent of the budget for them. Until the 2019-20 fiscal year, the allocation for children was about 15 percent of the budget. The issue was mentioned in a separate budget report. But no report is being made on the children's budget for three consecutive fiscal years.
Even the announced budget of Tk 6.78 trillion by the finance minister for the fiscal year 2022-23 in the parliament did not say anything about the children's budget. As a result, the future leaders of the country are being ignored in the budget.
Analysts say schools in Bangladesh were closed for the longest time during the Corona period. There has been a huge loss in children's education during this time.
Although later on children were given online classes, many children could not learn from these activities due to lack of smart phones. Therefore, there was a need in the budget to have specific guidelines for dealing with the education loss of children.
According to a report by the Center for Policy Dialogue and UNICEF, about two-fifths of the population aged 0-18 years in Bangladesh.
The children's budget is mainly associated with 15 ministries and departments. In the children's budget made separately for these children, the allocation in the financial year 2017-18 was 55,903 crore. The allocation for the fiscal year 2018-19 was Tk 65,847 crore and for the fiscal year 2019-20 it was Tk 90,968 crore. The next three budgets did not include separate children's budgets.
According to the Blooming Children's Report 2018, the allocation for children in the fiscal year 2018-19 was only 14.1 percent of the national budget and according to the report of the Ministry of Finance, the allocation for the fiscal year 2019-20 was 15.3 percent.
Mustafizur Rahman, Honourary Fellow of the Center for Policy Dialogue, said, "Since the Corona period we have seen less attention from those concerned. And how much money has been spent on children in the last two annual budgets has not been disclosed."
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has calculated the significant loss in Bangladesh's gross domestic product (GDP) and employment due to prolonged school closures in Cavid-19.
According to their survey, the closure of schools due to Covid-19 caused a loss of 3.1 percent of GDP. Due to this, skilled employment in Bangladesh will decrease by 3.18 percent and unskilled employment by 3.16 percent in 2030.
The government should help children regain their learning opportunities, the report said as well as investing in education and skills and eliminating digital inequality.
In this context, Mustafizur Rahman further said, children are the future generation. They need to pay special attention so that they can play a constructive role in the formation of the country and overcome the losses of Corona. Besides, separate investment will have to be made to develop them as skilled human resources.
Bangladesh signed the Charter of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1990, pledging to implement the rights of the child. In order to implement the objectives of this charter, the government enacted the Children's Act in 2013. Besides, the government adopted the national child policy in 2011. In that light, the budget specifies allocations for children
It has been acknowledged by the government that one of the best ways to increase the country's future productivity is to ensure the desired level of government investment in children.
Besides, in accordance with Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, Articles 24, 26 and 32 of the UNCRC and various articles of the Child Policy, the government is committed to ensuring food, nutrition, safe water supply, health care, education and other protections for children.
Since children cannot play a role in budgeting for their own needs, the government allocates budgets to meet their needs on its own initiative in the light of various policies and guidelines.
In addition, the ministries and departments involved in the implementation of the children's budget are instructed to plan their activities and identify the sources of funding. The children's budget report reveals what kind of activities the concerned agencies are doing for the children.
But since no report has been prepared in the last three financial years, there is no idea what steps the government is taking for children, a very important part of the population.