The Bangladeshi finance minister Saifur Rahman has presented his budget before parliament. The emphasis was on poverty reduction with big increases in education, information technology and defence spending. The budget was presented as the opposition called a one day country-wide general strike in which at least two people were injured in clashes with police. This report from Alastair Lawson.
The Bangladeshi finance minister said that he wanted to halve poverty in his country by 2015. It's a tough task because it is estimated that half the population of a hundred and thirty-five million live below the poverty line. Armed with two large loans each of five hundred million dollars from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, he was able to announce big increases in spending in nearly all main areas of government, but despite the generosity of international donors, Mr Rahman said that he wanted to rely less on foreign aid.
The minister said the country remained economically stable with a reduced budget deficit, low inflation and a high level of foreign exchange reserves. While the budget itself has not been explicitly criticised by the opposition, other areas of government policy have. An eight hour general strike was held on Thursday in protest over what they say is the deteriorating law and order situation across the country.