“We will hold consultations with children every year” assured Mr. Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Finance while speaking at a ‘Pre-Budget consultation with children’ on 18 May, at the Ministry Conference hall in Dhaka. He added, “This is the first consultation with children, although we have introduced the child budget in FY 2014-2015.”
He further explained, “All budgeting for children is an investment to ensure their better future and all of the government’s development initiatives are ultimately linked to children as the government was making all investments for ensuring access to education, healthcare and better income”.
The Ministry of Finance organized the pre-budget consultation with the participation of almost thirty children from low income communities in collaboration with Save the Children ahead of the national budget of FY 2017-18. Additional Secretary, Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury and Joint Secretary of Ministry M.Habibur Rahman spoke at the event. Sharon Hauser, the Director of Programme Development & Quality of Save the Children was also there as a guest speaker.
The pre-budget consultation with children is a key milestone of our continuous advocacy on children’s participation in decision making towards better investment for children. Save the Children made a specific call for the government to hold pre-budget consultation with children while launching the UNCRC General Comment on public budgeting in December 2016.
The State Minister of Finance at the event said that the Government will ensure child participation in the budget decision making process, and this has now come to fruition.
In face-to-face consultation, children prioritized different issues like education stipend, health and transportation. While sharing his experience Arif said, “We need free health facilities in urban slums”. Polash, a physically challenged child added, “We need to increase stipends for secondary and higher secondary school, especially for children with disability.”
Roxana also noted that, “If the local government has enough budget and can spend that for the education of slum children then no one will drop out.”
Children also raised some common concerns with regards to the budget such as infrastructure, sanitation, transportation and recreation facilities. Responding to their concerns, Mr Mamoon added, “We and some non-government organizations are also working to ensure that sanitation facilities in urban areas are adequate, but transport facilities still need improvement. In terms of addressing health facilities, he explained, “We will emphasize more allocation to ensure health facilities in urban slums.”
Investing in children was also evident in the open ended responses of the chair, “In urban areas, most of the open ground is grabbed for commercial purposes, but the government is emphasizing to protect space for playgrounds.”
Additionally, Mr. Mamoon stressed on children’s concern “Increasing allocation and strengthening the capacity of the local government is important to address the real needs of children through the budget”. He also assured the children that they would take immediate action to ensure free birth certificates for all children.
Appreciating the initiatives of the Finance Ministry and the children’s opinions, Sharon Hauser, Save the Children, stated, “Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world that has introduced a ‘Child Budget’ and is working hard to implement the UNCRC for the greater welfare of the children.”
Additional Secretary, Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury, encouraged the children to develop their learning on budget issues following a recent publication on “budget for children.” The Joint Secretary, M Habibur Rahman remarked, "The budget can be an important instrument for advancing the survival, protection and development of children.”
“Human development can only be achieved if proper attention is given to children given,” the chair stressed in his closing remarks, adding that the constitution of Bangladesh guarantees the basic human rights of all citizens, including children.