The budget is devoid of any vision for economic growth. This was the opinion of speakers at a session titled “Federal Budget 2015-16: A Review” held at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on Thursday, according to a press release.
They said that Pakistan’s indigenous resources were only able to fulfill country’s debt financing, defence and civil administration needs while the rest of development initiatives will have to rely on borrowings.
Institute’s chairman and ex-senator Prof Khurshid Ahmad, former chief economist Fasihuddin, former secretary Mirza Hamid Hasan, taxation expert Malik M Irfan, Riphah Institute of Public Policy Director Dr Rashid Aftab, DG-IPS Khalid Rahman and IPS lead coordinator Irfan Shahzad spoke on the occasion.
Prof Ahmad stressed the need to reduce country’s dependence on foreign loans.
He said that the government did not seem committed to spreading the tax net and instead its policies aimed at over-burdening the existing tax payers.
He lamented that despite pre-budget meetings with business community as well as the parliament’s finance committee their recommendations were not considered for accommodation.
Fasihuddin said that though government’s performance was slightly better than the previous year, it was still far away from anything it had promised.
He evaluated the budget from the economic, social and governance perspectives, questioning the rise in different forms of taxes and reduction in subsidies, which, he feared, could have a devastating inflationary impact on those with limited incomes.
Hasan preferred to look at the budget with the ‘half-full’ perspective, terming the budget neither pro-rich, nor pro-poor, but rather a modestly balanced one given the limited resources the authorities had to work with.
The speaker said that the government had treated the energy sector among its key priorities and regarded the government’s policy shift towards hydro and solar power as a welcome change.
Hasan said that any power generation projects would be useless without improvement in transmission lines
The panelists were unanimous that the federal budget for public sector development programmes was not only low but also infrastructure-centric with lower share for health and education as compared to the previous year’s allocation.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2015.
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