The budget farce

If we pick up the budget speech of any of the finance ministers over the past seventy-four years, it would be more or less the same. Similarly, the hurls unleashed by the opposition on the government also remain the same with only the faces changing. Presenting the annual budget/finance bill of the country is a very serious matter. It requires focus and mature discussion of the treasury and the opposition benches to ensure that the country stays out of financial crises.

A copy of the budget is presented to each member, which they are supposed to read and discuss in the national assembly. However, our members hardly ever open the document. The script of the farce in the national assembly remains the same. The government claimed that “Mulk eik nazuk daur sey guzar raha hai” and that all the financial misery of the country was due to the previous governments.

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Many times, the minister presenting the budget and making this claim is the one who also had presented the previous budget he/she is condemning. Without changing anything substantial, the ruling party always claims that they have presented a budget that would change the fate of the country. The opposition always accuses the government of presenting a “people unfriendly” budget and of being sold out to the international lenders. The opposition parties raise hues and cry during the session while the ruling party members shower praises on their government. This drama never changes while the country keeps slipping into an economic abyss.

We have recently seen it in the national assembly when the supplementary finance bill (mini-budget) was presented. The opposition is accusing the government of selling the country to IMF without giving any suggestions for a different path. The government is claiming they have done wonders for something where they had no choice. The fact of the matter is that we spend more than we earn and have always depended on foreign aid and loans.

We are so deep into the vicious cycle of loans that it has become impossible to survive with dignity. The only solution would require tough measures to cut down our spending including the defence budget and increase the tax net. Without everyone paying taxes and cutting our expenses, we will never be able to achieve economic sovereignty. For that, all stakeholders must sit together and agree on some long-term strategies that ensure economic stability and financial viability. Otherwise, I am afraid the country won’t be able to economically survive much longer without compromising its freedom.

RAJA SHAFAATULLAH

ISLAMABAD

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