Nisar A. Memon
15-June- 2020 – Pakistan Observer
Acute political confrontation of the decade, non adherence to Constitutional procedures, governance issues, absence of consensus on a national economic plan, mistrust in leadership, dependence on foreign financial and management support marred the 2020-2021 Budget like last budget, but to cap it all came Covid-19.
The GDP growth target for FY21 is set at +2.1% as against 0.4% negative growth in FY20 while fiscal deficit target has been set at PKR 3,195bn or 7.0% of GDP and inflation target has been set at 6.5%. The total outlay of budget 2020-21 is PKR 7,294.9bn, this size is 11% lower than the size of budget estimates 2019-20. The government has not imposed any new taxes in the budget, but has budgeted increase in FBR revenues. FBR tax target has been set PKR 4,963bn (+27%, 10.9% of the GDP) whereas actual collection for FY20 stood at PKR 3,908bn down by 30% from FY20 budgeted amount of PKR 5,555bn, while current expenditure is budgeted at PKR 6,345bn.
Whatever the numbers committed, the expectation of common man for control of inflation, working class for jobs, small businesses for enabling environment, agriculture sector for all out support in the face of devastation caused by swarms of locust and rains, the innovative ways of relief in the face of dwindling revenues, accommodating the reasonable requirements of trade and industry, and above all equitable and just support to all areas of federation are the key questions stakeholders have from the Q-Block of the capital.
The Ashrafia, newly added lexicon for intelligentsia and privileged ruling minority, advocates that there was hardly any room for the finance team to maneuver. However, many term it IMF budget, government setting highly ambitious FBR targets for the upcoming year thus not ruling out mini-budget in the later part of the year. The electronic, print and social media has been commenting on the subject more than the assemblies and will be doing so in the coming days. The real challenge for government will be to mitigate the unprecedented hardship of all segments of society, specially of the large majority with feeble voice for economic survival. The leadership is on the dock with no escape but to turn around this difficult situation.
But the huge challenge the nation, the government, intelligentsia, economists, security specialists, and researchers face is how they achieve national economic consensus for an economic plan for the ongoing decade. We have human power, the youth, educated women, natural resources, successful experiences, some failed practices, reliable neighbour China, brothers in faith like Iran and Afghanistan, renewed relationship of trust with super power USA, and a history of strong institutions.
This existentialist challenge can be achieved by genuine, honest, transparent, courageous leadership controlling the ego, lust for power, inflexible mindsets, unbridled corruptions, incompetence, and state institutions pulling the country in different directions.
Surely, we can overcome these in the larger interest of our poverty stricken people living below the acceptable human levels long deprived of constitutional fundamental rights.
Let the leadership carve out its position in history amongst the ones who rebooted systems by paradigm shift to secure future of its people and saved the people with just one thought – service to people in whose name they govern.
If all hopes in leadership are dashed, the citizens may stop tolerating the intolerable and rise — triggered by events like that of Burhan Wani in Kashmir, George Floyd in Minneapolis, Arab spring in Middle East, and mishandling of judiciary in last decade in Pakistan.
The Budget and Covid-19 has provided the nation with yet another chance to wake up in the interest of sovereignty of the country.
The writer is former, federal minister and senator
___ Regional Times Publication ____