Civil society representatives demanded direct inclusion of taxpayers in the proposed universal pension scheme (UPS), which will be announced in the next national budget for the financial year 2022-23.

They also recommended that the government take their advice to design an effective and sustainable pension plan. The seminar was organized by the Coast Foundation at Dhaka National Press Club.

Dr. Quazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmed chaired the event. The seminar was moderated by the President of the Coast Foundation, Dr Tofail Ahmed.

Member of Parliament Advocate Shamim Haider Patwari, Former Chairman of NBR Md Abdul Majid, Additional Secretary General Economic Division (GED) Mahabubul Hoque, Executive Director of Bangladesh Unayan Parishad Dr Nilufar Banu, Dr Mesbahuddin Ahmed of Jatiya Sramik Jote, Deputy ASA Executive Chairman Fazlul Hoque, SBF Executive Director Asgor Ali Sabri and many others participated and spoke at the seminar. The keynote address was delivered by Md Ahsanul Karim from Coast.

In the opening speech, Ahsanul Karim said that the Prime Minister had announced the UPS, which was well received by the elderly. “But UPS’s approach is kind of commercial instead of focusing on a rights-based approach, whereas Bangladesh is constitutionally a welfare state,” he added.

He made some demands such as the inclusion of taxpayers directly in the UPS as they are key resource mobilizers to develop the country and have the right to benefit from it.

Former NBR Chairman Md Abdul Majid said: “Our tax system does not work with a focus on welfare. That is why it hardly serves the rights of the people. The government has introduced the UPS, which is good but needs careful analysis and proper structuring to make it effective.

He also said that the existing tax system must be overhauled to directly benefit people so that they are encouraged to pay more taxes.

Meanwhile, Advocate Shamim Haider said the proposed UPS is like a system of investment instrument which needs to be revised to shape an institutional framework to serve all levels of people according to their economic status. The revision must be made before submitting it to the Council of Ministers.

Dr Tofail also said that government employees collect their benefits faster than people-centred welfare schemes because they control the political framework.

UPS is now one of the options that can benefit people who pay taxes both directly and indirectly. He recommended that the government place the “Zakat Fund” within a regulatory framework by mobilizing substantial resources for UPS by paying tax incentives.

Mahabubul Hoque said the 8th five-year plan adopted UPS, 50% of which will come from tax financing. “We have a plan to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio by at least 12%. If we can achieve this, additional funds will help us fund UPS,” he added.