Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin presented the third budget by the PTI government last week. As usual, the opposition rejected it right away in a knee-jerk reaction, possibly without even reading it properly. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto termed the budget an “economic attack on Pakistanis”. He asserted that the budget showed a “lack of empathy towards the underprivileged” and that the Prime Minister had showed his “enmity” towards the poor people clear. Similarly, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif rejected the budget in very strong words and vowed not to let the National Assembly pass the budget. He rejected the GDP growth numbers presented by the government as a gimmick and a lie.
Both the PPP and the PML-N has vowed to give a hard time to the PTI government. It is surprising, however, that during their tenures, both parties never raised the minimum wage by more than 15%. But the PPP chairman expects of the government to raise it now by 300%. On the other hand, the PML-N increased pay and perks of parliamentarians by 136% while ignoring the poor during their tenure. Now they have suddenly become champions of the cause of poor.
As for the government, although the budget largely seems well-intentioned and growth-focused, there are a few things that should be considered. For example, the government should revise pensions, especially for those who retired before 1970 as there is a huge gap in the pensions of retirees of pre- and post-1969. Similarly, the salaries of government officers should be streamlined as there is a big disparity between gazetted and non-gazetted employees. Finally, more allocation to education and health is warranted. Overall, it seems that the PTI government is finally getting its act together and beginning to work in the right direction.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15h, 2021.