Editors of different print and electronic media yesterday urged the government to take steps to cut duties on newsprint import and corporate tax on the industry in the upcoming national budget as it is hit hard by the pandemic.

Stressing the need for food security, they proposed increasing subsidy for agriculture as well as allocations for modern agriculture.

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They also emphasised on timely completion of different government projects and recommended taking stringent steps to avoid waste of public money.

The editors made the call during a virtual pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.

A finance ministry official said newspaper editors demanded cut in newsprint import duties mentioning that the circulation of newspapers crashed during the pandemic and the newspaper import cost went up.

Currently, newspapers pay 5 percent duty for importing newsprint.

After the meeting, the finance minister at a virtual press briefing said they would later discuss the recommendations in a meeting of the finance ministry team involved in preparing the budget and would try to incorporate the suggestions deemed acceptable in the budget.

Channel i Director and Head of News Shykh Seraj, The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam, Editor of Bangladesh Pratidin Naem Nijam, and Nayeemul Islam Khan, editor of daily Amader Orthoneeti, spoke at the meeting, among others.

The minister said Shykh Seraj suggested increasing subsidy for agriculture and stressed the need for food security.

Giving an example of modern farming in high-rises in city areas of different countries, Seraj recommended budgetary allocations so that such a mechanism could be developed in the country, Kamal said.

He said Naem Nizam proposed reducing newsprint import duties and corporate tax on newspapers.

The minister said Nayeemul proposed taking steps for upgrading Dhaka University to an international standard university.

Editors also recommended the finance ministry take strict measures to stop misuse of public money due to delay in implementation of government projects, said Kamal.

Mentioning agriculture as the lifeline of the country, he said the sector would get priority in the budget, likely to be placed in parliament in the first week of June, and the government would do everything to make it more dynamic.

Steps would be taken for use of modern technology in agriculture, said the minister, adding that they were considering stimulus programmes for educated people interested in farming.

Replying to a question, Kamal said prices of rice shot up due to a dearth in the supply following fall in production.

“Be it rice, paddy or wheat, their production depend on the state of nature. We claim ourselves to be self-sufficient in food. We can be self-sufficient in food in a year when the nature’s state remains normal,” said the minister adding, “We may not maintain it if there is a natural calamity.”

A good portion of the Boro crop was damaged in the country last year, he said.

Mentioning that all neighbouring countries, including India, Thailand, faced shortages in agricultural production, the minister said farming was disrupted, which led to supply shortage and price hike.

Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir, Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder, Economic Relations Division Secretary Fatima Yasmin, National Board of Revenue Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, Director General of Bangladesh Television Shohrab Hossain, and Bangladesh Betar DG Ahmed Quamruzzaman also attended the meeting.


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