Before discussing the budget, it is necessary to dwell on the environment in which Pakistan finds itself today. As a frontline state in the war against terror, it has paid a heavy price. Over 37,000 people have been martyred and 468 billion rupees suffered in collateral damage, and this goes to show that Pakistan is a brave and resilient nation, and the floods of 2010 added to the burden. The other major factor was a significant rise in international oil prices.
Despite this, the people’s government, because of its people-centric approach, has achieved success in a number of areas in the last three years. The budget 2011-12 is an effort on the part of the people’s government to solidify these gains as well as to create new opportunities for people.
When the budget for 2010-2011 was prepared, the price of oil was expected to be in the range of $70-75 per barrel but rose to $125 per barrel during the year. The third factor which continued to affect us adversely is national security and the fallout from the war on terrorism. This has consequences for our economy and affects our perceptions. It affects our business environment, investment flow and hence economic growth. And, ultimately, it affects the welfare of our people.
For example, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has received widespread acceptance from development partners. It uses technology so that the possibilities of corruption are limited. This year, the government spent Rs35 billion for providing a monthly stipend of Rs1,000 to low-income households and next year this amount will increase to at least Rs50 billion. If additional resources are available, this amount may be increased to Rs65 billion.
The government hopes to reduce the fiscal deficit further. It also hopes to reduce the rate of inflation to single digit levels through continued fiscal consolidation. A broad, equitable and stable revenue mobilisation system is under construction to meet our development needs. The government is maintaining and further developing social safety nets for the vulnerable while moving rapidly towards the elimination of untargeted subsidies. It is restructuring the loss-making public sector enterprises where possible. And despite its financial constraints, no new taxes have been levied.
The government understands and is aware of the difficulties being faced by government servants and pensioners. In order to provide some economic relief to them, the people’s government has increased their salaries by 15 per cent and pensions by 20 per cent. The government’s vision is to bring the poor and vulnerable segments of the population into the mainstream of development. It does not care about the propaganda campaign started by the PML-N, which was evident during the budget session. Rather, it believes in constructive criticism.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.
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