A mixed bag at best
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the fourth consecutive budget of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) government on Friday. The party took the charge of the country in June 2013 with the promise to change the economic fate of Pakistan. In his budget speech on 11th of June three years ago, Dar claimed that Pakistan would be standing among the developed nations very soon. Mr Dar unveiled in his wish list at that time that the economy of Pakistan will be reinvigorated and economic growth will accelerate. Moreover, Dar spent most of his time during the budget speech in 2013 counting the bad economic policies of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, which according to him pushed the country into the economic quagmire. “The figure of economic growth is worrisome while the issue of circular debt is also haunting the economy significantly,” he roared while delivering the first budget speech of the incumbent government. The people have given their verdict on the poor economic policies of PPP as the party has been routed out from the political horizon in the recently held general elections, he added, while giving his speech in 2013.
Now, when the current government is entering in its fourth Financial Year (FY), Dar is again busy in painting the rosy picture of a bleak economy through his ‘Darnomics’ as he is also working as a de-facto prime minister these days in the absence of Nawaz Sharif. Mr Dar blamed the agriculture sector of not achieving the targeted economic growth of 5.5 percent as the growth of agriculture sector remained in the negative during the FY 2015-16. However, the economists of the country have refused to believe Dar that the growth rate is at 4.7 percent at the moment.
On Friday, Dar announced a comprehensive package for the uplift of agriculture sector in his budget speech of FY 2016-17 as he has announced several subsidies on the pesticides and seeds. The farmers from all over the Punjab were on the roads to press for their demands despite the announcement of Rs341 billion relief package by the prime minister. The protest movement of the farmers has paid and now they have been promised some more relief at least if the budget speech of finance minister is to be believed. He termed the budget as a breath of fresh air for farmers and urged the people to go for the ‘Charter of Economy’ for the betterment of country.
Dar is again busy in painting the rosy picture of a bleak economy through his ‘Darnomics’ as he is also working as a de-facto prime minister these days in the absence of Nawaz Sharif
Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI):
The Vice President of LCCI Nasir Saeed told DNA that the government has not facilitated the traders and business community to bring them into the tax net in this budget. “The businessmen demand an ease and facilitation in the process of tax collection by the government but nothing quantifiable has been done in this regard,” he commented.
Almas Hyder, senior vice president of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and industry, said that the budget for FY 2016-17 is a mixed bag with some good and bad news for the business community. He was of the view that government did nothing substantial for the ease of doing business in Pakistan and Ishaq Dar did not even speak about this subject. “Our country stands at 138th number out of 189 countries in the ease of doing business index and there is a dire need to improve this position,” he said. According to him, the government has announced a promising package for the agriculture sector and this rural sector plays a vital role in the betterment of the economy.
Mian Anjum Nisar, who was the president of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2004, said that it is a traditional budget indeed as the government has done nothing to facilitate the businessmen to bring them in the tax base. He further added that there is no motivation for the investors in the budget to invest in Pakistan. “The expansion of industry is the backbone of an economy but government did not focus at this sector for its expansion,” he said. He was of the view that the bureaucracy and officials of Revenue Authority create hindrances for the trader’s community in their businesses and the finance minister did not say anything to tame those officials.
Sheikh Muhammad Arshad, the incumbent president of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the government did not consider the suggestions by LCCI in this budget. He said that the small traders are not happy with the existing Withholding Tax (WHT) and the issue of WHT is not resolved yet.
“We are building Pakistan and the time has come to go for a new Charter of Economy,” Ishaq Dar said in his speech, who himself was the president of LCCI in 1993. He counted the projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and said that 10,000 Megawatts (MW) will be added in the national grid by the end of June 2018.
Sheikh Muhammad Arshad, the incumbent president of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the government did not consider the suggestions by LCCI in this budget
A cursory glance at all the budget speeches of finance ministers reveals that the economic stats and figures change every year but two things are equally common in all the budget speeches; a saying by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and a verse of Allama Iqbal. This year too Ishaq Dar gave a reference of one of Jinnah’s speeches and ended his speech by reciting a verse of Iqbal. He recited a verse from Iqbal’s Zarb-e-Kaleem as “Jurrat Ho Namoo Ki To Faza Tang Nahin Hai, Aey Mard-e-Khuda, Mulk-e-Khuda Tang Nahin Hai!” (If there is pluck for growth, the suburbs suffice; Oh man, the world is wide, if you are wise). It is difficult to predict whether Mr Dar will be able to widen the ‘world of Pakistan’ for its people by the end of his government.