The federal budget 2011-12 has failed to win the approval of people in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), with a majority terming the exercise mere “lip service” with no relief for the poor.
“There is nothing new in the budget for masses, at least I didn’t find any such thing in it,” said Mohammad Akram, a shopkeeper in Gilgit, as The Express Tribune conducted a random post-budget survey in Gilgit city on Saturday to ascertain the public response.
Akram thinks that since the prices of petrol and diesel are unchecked, therefore expecting a major relief is useless. He was not hopeful of prices of various commodities coming down following the budget.
Businessmen, teachers, students, shopkeepers, government servants, and politicians took part in the survey, with many of them having no idea of what has been presented in the budget for Gilgit-Baltistan. They said they did not expect any major respite from the rulers.
“Is there any significant relief in the budget?” a transporter said in response to a survey question. “Since it is not our budget, we don’t have any interest in it,” he added.
In the budget, Rs7.26 billion has been allocated for G-B, but economists believe the amount is too little to meet the expenditure on a number of projects, most of which are ongoing development projects which have yet to be completed.
“I think the government will barely be able to complete the ongoing projects, let alone start up new projects in the flood-hit areas,” said Maqsood, a seasoned contractor.
In addition, the government allocated Rs18 billion for Diamer-Bhasha Dam and Rs1 billion for Sadpara Dam in Skardu. It is expected that jobs will become available for locals once work starts on these projects starts.
Not everyone felt let down by the budget though. Noor Khan, a government servant, was pleased that there was something in the budget for the government servants. “It is good to hear that our salaries will be raised,” he said, adding that it was becoming difficult to keep up with the high rate of inflation.
Sharif Khan, a wholesale dealer, said he was least interested in the budget figures as circulation of money in the market is at its lowest ebb for the past couple of year due to people having lost much of their purchasing power. “Unless you keep a firm check on inflation, things will not get fixed.”
Masroor, a lecturer, said the government should have imposed new taxes on the people of the richest category if it wanted to give relief to the poor.
“But it didn’t happen unfortunately,” he said.
G-B Law Minister Wazir Shakil termed the budget “proof of the government’s love of the poor people,” saying that despite financial problems, the government raised salaries by 15% while pensions of retired employees were raised by 20%.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ