Considering the ugly financial shape of the country, the budget 2022-23 is just fine. Or you can say its ugly; not uglier. Sounds better? Doesn’t matter.
Let’s start with the mighty military budget for the mighty military who stands as the citadel of Islam. Though succumbing to 5,000 TTP. But you don’t know the details of business. The business of blood. And bodies. And missing people.
I deviate. So, bear the deviations.
Total size of the federal budget is Rs.9,502 billion. How cheap! Of that, Rs.3,950 billion will simply go in debt payments. So, it’s like Rs.5,552 billion budget; hence prepared with deficit. Of that Rs.5,552 billion, Rs.1,523 billion is for military.
And that’s a lie.
Rs.1,523 billion is a direct military budget which does not include military pensions (of Rs.395 billion), import of military hardware, parade costs, nuclear program, and supplementary grants (which were Rs.110 billion 2021-22). So, concisely, it’s over Rs.2,200 billion.
This all is apart from business enterprises. Corn. DHAs. Roads. Cereals. Serials. Movies. MILBUS.
Interestingly – not so – military budget is the only budget that got increased.
Health budget got reduced from Rs.28.4 billion to Rs.19.6 billion.
Education budget got reduced from Rs.92 billion to Rs.90.5 billion.
Grant to HEC got reduced from Rs.65.3 billion to Rs.65 billion.
So, you may know, who owns this land and who runs the affairs. So, you may reflect deep inside. And think. And evolve. And become Shaheen of Iqbal. And fly. To new horizons. In new lands. Through immigrations. Or asylums. It’s a lose-lose. A loser here, a loser there. A first-class loser here, a third-class loser there.
Now before you lose the erection of goosebumps, its better we move ahead with the budget. 15% increase in salaries of government employees and merging of previous ad-hoc allowances would be a relief. PTI didn’t help government employees in last 3.5 (3 full and 1 interim) budgets.
But what about the rest?
For the poor, there is nothing to be honest. There will be Rs.2,000 per month for families and subsidized petrol and similar other dramatics but that would all be stinky. That would all be not for the poor. The needy will have to beg to attain these.
But for the rich, there are gifts. First, there is Rs.699 billion for subsidies. Obviously, these subsidies would go for big mafias and their businesses. Sugar, textile, roads, development, housing, etc. Subsidies are always for the elite. Remember that. You may get some pennies in the shower but nothing more.
A lot could have been done for the economy and the poor. For example:
- Subsidies of all kinds could have been banned.
- Non-feasible development projects in PSDP could have been dropped. With the current situation, PSDP should not have been more than Rs.400 billion.
- All foreign funded projects could have been halted. Instantly.
- Perks and privileges of bureaucrats, judges, and generals could have been slashed.
- Military budget could have been halted. Military pension could have been merged in military budget with some slashes.
- Import of new military equipment for one year could have been banned.
- Travelling for meetings could be banned for one year.
- Free electricity units could be stopped for all, including WAPDA employees.
- Procurement of all kinds of vehicles (except ambulances and transport buses) could have been banned.
And one subsidy should have stayed. PETROL.
Whatever the popular opinion or economists are saying, this is the ugliest decision by the government so far. These additional Rs.60 per liter (with overall cost to reach 250 per liter) are going to hurt everyone. Everything is going to be expensive in coming days. This hyperinflation with stagflation is going to put a misery show.
If only fuel prices could have been managed, things could have been managed. But this didn’t happen. With the increase in fuel prices, transport of goods and FMCGs are going to increase. Electricity, as we are mostly dependent on IPPs, are going to increase as well. With that, production cost of everything is going to go up. Everything is going to go up, except public life.
One day salary from all the government and private sector employees from a certain grade and above could have deducted each month to handle this. More cuts could have been added in PSDP and ADPs to handle this. A lot could have been done. In the long-run, Pakistan definitely needs to plan to get out of IPPs and fuel-based energy production.
The times ahead are going to be bad. The whole working class is going to be pushed down. Middle class is not going to be the same middle class in the times to come.
Anyway. Who cares? Cigarettes are not taxed much. We can puff and exhale the inflation through lungs. It works. Always.
Zafar Mirza wrote in Dawn on 03.06.2022 and proposed higher taxes on cigarettes to maintain some financial balance. He gave example of Philippines where taxes were imposed up to 1000% on cigarettes in 2012. Tax revenues from cigarettes grew from PHP 32 billion (2012) to PHP 106 billion (2017) with 3 million less smokers. And that revenue was used for health which enhanced from PHP 50 billion in 2013 to PHP 165 billion in 2019. How cool is smoking? Wonders!
So, cheer up. We have all the wrong priorities. As always. Because here, elites serve elites. The government is elite. Bureaucracy is elite. Military is elite. Landlords are elite. The problem is, they are so dumb and even then, they manage to fool the public. May be public is even dumber?
Government is predicting inflation of 13-14%. It’s going to be double than that. For sure. And with that inflation in cards, mini budget is sure to come up soon. This budget may be considered as a tentative budget.
That’s all for federal budget. You can cherry-pick to take sides. Can blame it on PTI for the mess of 3.5 years. Or can blame PMLN for the mess of 2 months. Or you can blame the actual culprits. Wherever your cherry-picking takes you.
Punjab tried to present the provincial budget yesterday but failed. There was no finance minister but then there was but then there wasn’t. It was a chaos. One good thing about development of Punjab (ADP 2022-23) is that they said no to DDP-II. Initially, there were talks to bless the parliamentarians, just like what PTI did in 2021-22, but then it was discarded. DDP was a crime. And its price would be paid by taxpayers for years to come.
Times are tough. There is a war which is causing fuel hike and wheat scarcity. Fine.
But our story is different. We always have a war inside. Military keeps on putting jokers and things get uglier. This time, military itself got exposed – thank goodness – and now everyone is running naked in the street. The one ruling, the one thrown out, and the one waiting; all are military stooges. Puppets. Waiting for their turn to oblige the masters. Everyone trying to go one step ahead of the predecessors to please the masters. Just like what the Cartoon Prime Minister did with new powers to ISI regarding appointments and promotions of public officer holders.
When you get all this, and you face the heat of inflation, and all the mess around; do remember to point at the right direction. Who did that to you?
That’s all. You must prepare yourself. Brace for impact.