KARACHI: Regardless of who is in government or what policies they present in the budget, the opposition seems to have the same hackneyed criticism.
The criticism the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had to face from the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) for the five budgets made under its watch will reverberate on the floor of Parliament once again this year -- except with the roles reversed.
'Not people-friendly' - that's the mantra of every budget session.
Predictably, soon after the budget 2014-15 was announced on June 3, the combined opposition in Parliament rejected the budget, terming it a pro-industrialists and a pro-rich one which has shattered hopes of the poor segment of society.
All the opposition parties expressed fear and frustration that the new budget will unleash a flood of inflation, unemployment and social unrest.
PPP Senator Babar Awan remarked that "the budget has been prepared by industrialists for businessmen sans relief and hope for the common man."
"This will result in street fighting and agitation and the government must be ready to face this”, he noted, adding that the entire financial policy revolves around the business cronies.
The reaction from opposition parties when the PML-N government unveiled the federal budget for 2013-14 last year was that of disappointment as well.
While a few described it as an ‘opportunity missed’ to reduce poverty, others termed it a ‘traditional budget’.
Majority of them were of the opinion that the budget offers no relief for the masses and does not provide a lasting solution to the economic woes of the country. “This budget is not people-friendly” is how opposition leaders had put it.
The PPP, which was the largest opposition party, had criticised the government over a number of its decisions.
Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Pakistan Peoples Party’s Khurshid Shah criticised the increase in sales tax saying it affects not only the poor man living in villages, but also in cities. He added that it directly affects the masses and would hike inflation in the country.
“PML-N has not fulfilled its promise of raising minimum wages to Rs15, 000,” Shah further remarked.
PML-N’s decision to change the name of ‘Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme’ also evoked negative statements from the party. Condemning the government’s decision spokesperson for Bilawal House Eijaz Durrani had termed it ‘violation’ of Charter of Democracy signed between PPP leader Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also criticised the PML-N government.
“The poor have nothing to do with this budget … it will only push them [the poor] into a blind alley of poverty,” PTI President Javed Hashmi had said.
PTI Punjab President Ejaz Chaudhry had said that the increase in indirect taxes would only burden the common man more. The tax on food staples would make it hard for working-class families to put food on the table, he had added.
Chaudhry had stated that Nawaz’s budgetary priorities were far removed from the problems faced by the common man.
The budget was not people friendly, and would serve only the business class, the Punjab president had remarked, adding that the increase in general sales tax was sheer injustice.
The policies in Budget 2013-14 can be viewed over here.
When PPP was in power - Budget 2012-13
A year earlier, when the PML-N was in the opposition, it criticised the budget as expected. The party had a similar criticism to that of the opposition of the 2013-14 budget, stating that the needs of the people of Pakistan were ignored.
The head of the PML-N had heaped scorn on the then PPP government for resorting to a “jugglery of figures” in the 2012-13 budget. He had tempered his criticism though with a small dose of hope, insisting that the damage was not altogether irreparable and could be undone through “sincere and meticulous management”.
Nawaz's party had led a noisy protest in the National Assembly during the budget speech. PML-N economic analysts had termed “loopholes in the budget depicting the government’s insincerity and inefficiency.”
The current premier had maintained that rampant corruption and misuse of power left very little in the way of spending on public welfare. “It is a wholesale failure on all fronts.”
Nawaz had stated that the PPP’s budget had brought the country on the “brink of an economic meltdown and social anarchy and carries no incentive for the downtrodden masses.”
“The regime lacks basic knowledge required to govern a country and has spent its tenure visiting foreign countries on taxpayers’ money.”
Describing the federal budget 2012-13 as disappointing and referring to poverty and unemployment, the current Finance Minister and PML-N leader Ishaq Dar had said that the government does not seem to possess the capability to come up with a realistic solution.
He had also grilled the government over the creation of 100,000 more jobs, saying that the government should come up with sensible measures to overcome unemployment.
Dar had stated that the poor condition of the national exchequer did not allow the government to create jobs in such large numbers. For this purpose, the government would only print more currency notes which will in effect trigger an inflationary-spiral.
Calling the then PPP government a gambler who has lost everything, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who was the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly at that time, said that the government had become ‘deaf and dumb’ towards the needs of the people of Pakistan.
The 2012-13 budget speech can be viewed over here.
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