On rescheduling the Financial Year

Dhaka,  Tue,  19 September 2017
Published : 06 Aug 2017, 18:51:53
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On rescheduling the Financial Year

Syed Mahbubur Rashid
The Finance Minister has recently called for a public debate on the issue of changing the prevailing financial year (July-June) as some sections of people had opined that the  financial year should be changed to January-December for better implementation of the government programmes. 

Before we come to this specific point, let us discuss the background of the introduction of the present financial year. In UK, the financial year is April-March. Accordingly the British rulers introduced April-March as the financial year in India. After independence, the Republic of India has been following that system. In Pakistan also, this financial calendar had continued until General Ayub Khan took over power in 1958. In 1959, Ayub's military government changed the financial year from April-March to July-June. It was argued that almost a quarter of the year used to be lost for releasing and transferring fund and also completing other related works for starting a project. So when the project would be ready to start it would be around June-July. Late June to almost early October is a turbulent period of floods and the rains. So actually the works would start in October and six months would be available for completion of the work. Ayub government's argument was that the financial year would start from July and release of fund and other formal works would be completed during the rains and the actual works would start from October. In that case a period of nine months would be available for uninterrupted continuation of the works. 

If the climatic condition is taken into consideration for choosing the financial year, whatever hatred we may have for Ayub, there are cogent reasons to agree with the Ayub government's decision. In the case of changing to January-December financial year, the rainy season would divide period of works. It would interrupt the works of the ongoing field projects. Of course, this would give a chance to the dishonest officers and contractors to revise the project's cost to their heart's content! 

Problems of smooth functioning and implementation of the projects lie somewhere else. It is ridiculous to say that all projects are susceptible to the rainy season. For example, the works of the Padma bridge, which can be carried out in the rain, are being done.  On the other hand, after any disaster like flood, cyclone and tidal wave the government relief does not reach there within the reasonable time. 

The bureaucracy suffers from a sloth syndrome. Instead of wasting time in thinking about the change of the financial year the attention should be directed to good and efficient governance and proper supervision. How could all the officers of the Haor Development Board go abroad at a time? There was none in the office when the haor areas were inundated due to onrush of water. It is not known whether any action was taken for this kind of irresponsible behaviour. Steps should be taken to inculcate the sense of responsibility and time among the officials. Changes are required, no doubt, but not of the financial year but of the mentality of the officials. Efficient phasing-out of the work is important but that can be done only through proper knowledge, efficiency, sincerity and pro-people mentality. To achieve people's welfare we shall have to ensure good governance. 

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