Contours of next budget
Tmarks HOUGH details of the Budget Strategy Paper approved by the Fed eral Cabinet on Wednesday have been, as usual, kept secret but re
made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on the occasion indicate what is in store for the masses in the next budget. The PM talked about delivering benefits of progress to people but both he and his Finance Minister stressed on expansion of tax net and bringing the budgetary deficit down, which inevitably meant prescription of bitter pills for the common man.
The health of the economy has surely improved due to better economic management during the last three years and the Government also deserves credit for launching some of the mega projects of far-reaching significance. In addition, the Government got a big financial cushion due to rapidly falling prices of oil in the international market and passage of its fraction to the domestic consumers. Prices of raw material in the international market have slumped positively impacting imports and negatively affecting exports. However, one must point out that benefits of the economic policies and initiation of mega projects have not trickled down as, like previous regimes, the incumbent government too relied more on indirect taxations like hefty increase on taxes and duties on POL products and denied benefits of falling prices of commodities in the international market to the domestic consumers by imposing restrictive so-called regulatory duties on imports and providing subsidy to industrialists like sugar mafia on exports and as a consequence the common man was forced to pay much more than people in other parts of the world for these commodities. The Government claims to have increased tax collection but it is not because of inclusion of sacred cows in the tax net or making tax-dodgers to pay but increase in indirect taxation like the one on POL. Again, when the Government claims to have cared for the poor it always meant increase in allocations for BISP, a programme which is nothing but sheer wastage of tax-payers’ money as it has miserably failed to alleviate poverty or mitigate woes of the poor. Therefore, if the Government is genuinely interested in providing relief to people, then it should go for substantial increase in salary and allowances, provide subsidy on essential food items and reduce taxes on items of daily use.