Block Allocations: Focus on Hit War Fallout

The government is not maintaining a separate allocation for vaccines in the next fiscal year’s budget as it withdraws from vaccine supply given the high inoculation rate and low infection rates.

In the past two fiscal years, Tk 10,000 crore has been earmarked in the budget for the procurement of vaccines. There would be no such allocation in the budget for the coming year, which will be unveiled in parliament on June 9.

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Bangladesh aims to inoculate 70% of the population with two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in line with the World Health Organization target.

As of June 2, 69.03% of the population have received double doses, according to data from the General Directorate of Health Services. Of those who received the full dose, 12.79% received the booster dose.

In addition, Bangladesh has managed to more or less flatten the curve of coronavirus cases: despite the full reopening of the economy, the number of cases has remained in double digits for months now, with strange deaths here and there due to Covid-19.

“We expect the situation to stay that way, so there is no need to buy more vaccines,” said a finance ministry official involved in the process.

There are enough doses in stock to get through the recall campaign.

“But enthusiasm for the recalls has been lukewarm, so we won’t be buying new vaccines,” he said, adding that if the need arose, the funds could be managed from the budget. revised for the next fiscal year.

Even out of the Tk 10,000 crore allocation for vaccines this fiscal year, Tk 6,500 crore could be spent. But even then, that amount would be retroactively adjusted with a $500 million loan from the World Bank.

Of the $500 million, $400 million would go to 6.8 million doses of vaccines purchased from the Serum Institute of India and China’s Sinopharm.

“The expenditure for the vaccine will be adjusted as a retrospective cost. Accordingly, the allocation will remain undisbursed,” the official said.

The government will, however, retain a block allocation of 5,000 crore taka, like this year, to provide assistance to the poor to cushion the blow of inflation resulting from the Russian-Ukrainian war against them.

The amount could be disbursed in cash or in kind, the finance ministry official added.

Inflation has an outsized impact on the poor, said Zaid Bakht, former research director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

“For low income people, the cost of living is a very stressful situation. The government should help them as much as possible. And Tk 5,000 crore is not enough to help the poor.”

But having an allowance to protect the poor from inflationary shocks is a step in the right direction, said Bakht, who is currently chairman of Agrani Bank.

It is not too necessary to keep a separate allowance for the purchase of vaccines.

“After giving the booster dose to a million people, it looks like the risk factors will be diluted and the need for vaccination will also be reduced. But we need a back-up plan and keep an eye on the new variants of covid,” he added. .

James V. Hayes