Increased allocation for sectors dealing with the youth of the country is needed if there is to be tangible development, analysts said yesterday.

The contribution of the youth is important for economic and social development, said Mohammad Mamun Mia, president of United Nations Youth and Students Association of Bangladesh.

For that to happen, skill development of the youth is required to turn them into productive workforce, he said at a roundtable styled “The Youth and the Budget”, organized by The Daily Star at its office in Dhaka.

Young professionals, entrepreneurs, students and public representatives took part in the discussion. Youths represent a large part of the population and they are the greatest strength, the speakers said. However, the proposed budget for fiscal 2017-18 did not place enough emphasis on their proper education, skill development, and employment opportunities, they added.

Only 0.3 percent of the incoming fiscal year’s budget has been allocated for the ministry of youth and sports, said Ejaj Ahmad, founder and president of the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Centre.

“It is insufficient considering the fact that one-third of the country’s population is youth,” he said, while calling for a more youth-oriented budget.

The idea of Digital Bangladesh will not be implemented if there is a tax on internet, said Samanta Saif Kristy, a Dhaka University student.  “Imposing tax on the internet will be inconvenient for our generation as many of us are interested in the e-commerce business,” she added.

The new VAT law from July 1 that prescribes a flat 15 percent value-added tax on most goods and services available in the country will affect the hospitality sector directly as the expenditures will soar, said Ashfaq Asif, managing director of Tarka Restaurant.

“The restaurant scene in Bangladesh is vibrant and expanding, and many youths are investing in the food business,” he added. The 15 percent VAT acts as a deterrent for aspiring restaurateurs, said Nahrin Radeyha Rafique, a student of the Institute of Business Administration.

“It will be problematic for me if I want to open a restaurant business as everything, be it equipment and logistics, will be more expensive. As students, our income source is limited,” she added.

The government should ensure good governance and strictly tackle corruption, which will help bring in more revenues and lessen the burden of tax on consumers, said Muntasim Islam, a student of East West University.

There should be higher allocation for the research sectors, said Nazmun Nahar, a student of the Dhaka University.

The country’s sizeable young demographic presents a great vessel for development, said Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star.

“Bangladesh is a country with a majority young population and the budget should reflect a proportionate resource allocation for this group.”  Arranging such discussions will help in drawing the attention of the leadership to the issue of youth’s representation, he said, adding that the newspaper is committed to promoting youths in every way possible.

The country needs to focus more on innovation to march towards development while different line ministries dealing with young population have to come forward and work in this regard, said Nahim Razzaq, ruling Awami League lawmaker and a standing committee member of the ministry of youth and sports.

Korvi Rakshand, founder of Jaago Foundation, moderated the roundtable.

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