BANGLADESH: Women's Economic Empowerment to Get Priority in Next Budget: Muhith

Friday, April 22, 2011
The Financial Express
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

Finance Minister AMA Muhith has said the upcoming fiscal budget will have special focus on women's economic empowerment.

He said the government is actively considering giving special focus on gender budget as it has received enthusiasm in all related ministries and earned some significant successes.

"Just wait and see, there will be something special for women entrepreneurs in the coming budget," the finance minister said while speaking as the chief guest at a workshop on 'Women entrepreneurs and national budget 2011-12' at the CIRDAP auditorium in the city Thursday.

Organised by Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) in support of USAID Progati, the workshop was also addressed by Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Atiur Rahman as the special guest.

BWCCI President Selima Ahmad chaired it while female members of parliament, BWCCI members and local government representatives also spoke on the occasion.

The speakers put forward some demands including allocation of TK 1.0 billion special fund for women entrepreneurs, access to collateral-free and easy-term loan facilities and introducing tax-free income limit to Tk 300,000, special desks for women at utility service centres and National Board of Revenue (NBR) and declaration of successful women as commercially important persons (CIPs).

The finance minister said though the present government is women friendly, it could not ensure equality for all in many sectors due to lack of positive action.

He said the 10 per cent quota system for women in government recruitment could not be achieved though it was introduced three decades ago.

Pointing to the demands of the women entrepreneurs the finance minister said introducing percentage for women in the BB's Equity Entrepreneur Fund and women desks at NBR offices can be considered.

"But we have some problems in allotting Tk 1.0 billion special fund for women entrepreneurs. I do not want to commit anything at this moment," he told the workshop.

The finance minister, however, suggested the women and children affairs ministry to play its advocacy role to different ministries concerned under which projects or programmes can get special focus on women entrepreneur development.

He said the demand of getting resource centres for women can also be met by the government.

The BB governor said as the commercial banks feel encouraged to provide loan to women entrepreneurs under small and medium enterprise (SME) refinancing scheme, the central bank is now considering increasing the minimum percentage of the fund allocation for women from 15 per cent to 30 per cent.

He said as many as 13,723 entrepreneurs received Tk 1.82 billion loans from the fund.

Concerning the demand of Tk 1.0 billion special fund for women entrepreneur development, the BWCCI president said it would help develop a pro-women business environment.

She also demanded distribution of the funds among the sectors which play role in women entrepreneur development.