A SPENDING spree in a delicate or unpredictable financial situation may always prove to be as awkward as having a bath in cold water on an exceptionally cool day during the bitter winter. Or, can't it be as embarrassing, nay as tormenting, as walking through a long road across a barren wide field wearing a three-piece woolen suit on a very humid and hot summer day when the fireball, called the sun, negotiates the mid-heaven? This question should be asked straight to the various government ministries in this country where a jumbo cabinet had to be cobbled up by the ruling alliance to give a seat of power to every party man having sharp teeth or any other clout. A recent report in this paper said most ministries and divisions have reverted to a spending spree from the first day of the new fiscal year in spite of the austerity measures, enforced by the Ministry of Finance last fiscal in view of the precarious financial position that was triggered by the record oil price hike in the world market. The report quoted sources in the ministry as saying that the fiscal management of the country might come under pressure if the prevailing situation is allowed to continue.
Apparently, the various ministries and divisions -- each of which has either a full minister or state minister in charge -- have allowed themselves to be indulged in the thinking or making a guess that the order of the Ministry of Finance for austerity measures to rein in avoidable expenditures for sailing with prudence through a difficult period safely, expired with the ending of the past fiscal year when it was issued. But have the causes that compelled the Ministry of Finance to issue the pertinent order for exercising prudence in spending ceased to require a reminder from the ministry for maintaining the restraint? Tension in West Asia -- involving Iran, Syria and Iraq, has continued to build up towards an unpredictable climax with oil prices fluctuating within a slim margin at their all-time high record levels. Have the ministers been passing all their time with their eyes closed towards the broad world outside when the world is known to be an inter-dependent one? Or, have they been too busy with their politics of power and have no time to govern? Otherwise, how could the spending spree take effect right in front of them?
The last fiscal year witnessed the country passing through acute financial difficulties. Many state-owned entities including the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and the Bangladesh Power Development Board suffered serious financial reversals. These bodies have, meanwhile, asked for emergency funds to the tune of Tk 20 billion to bail themselves out. The government had to resort to large-scale borrowing from commercial banks to overcome the adverse effects of a galloping gap between rising state expenditure and revenue earning. There is no denying that the national economy did otherwise show an impressive growth -- at the rate of 6.5 per cent -- in the last fiscal year. But has the revenue base of the economy, even with this growth performance, widened enough for the earning in the current fiscal year to meet the recurrent and development expenditures along with last year's carried-over liabilities? Did the secretaries, who are also the principal accounting officers of their respective ministries and divisions, warn their bosses -- ministers and state ministers in charge, about the likely disastrous consequences of imprudent spending?