Budget will be crucial for Govt
Our students, from nursery to professional colleges, are our hopes for the future. They are our national assets, assets on which the future edifice of a country has to be raised. Unfortunately this vital question has remained unanswered till date, especially during the last four years, where lavish expenses on unproductive sectors, on organizing free rides around the world for unknown entities, have been more importantly emphasized.
The national gains for the future were given a much below priority. The result is seen in the rise of a monstrous and octopus-like unemployment, rising from 5.4 percent in 2007 to over 17 percent in 2011. It continues to rise, and our youth, with degrees in their hands from professional or management colleges and universities, see little light for themselves. Some who can afford try to migrate to other countries in search of better prospective.
Those getting lucrative jobs abroad are the luckiest people. Not everyone, leaving Pakistan for other countries, offering job opportunities, find the jobs of their choice. They have future in their own country. The government seems indifferent to their cause. Programmes like Benazir income support or those in planning stages for interns, hardly matter for a population growing at a rate faster than the growth rate of Gross domestic product.
More and more educational institutions and seats of higher learning be established, and then employment opportunities created for building them as future pillars of strength for the country. The second most important sector is of health, where greater allocation will be needed. Our sick and suffering humanity, a vast majority of which is unable to seek effective health coverage, looks to the government for help and succour.
The situation in government hospitals are horrific , medicines are in short supply and those available are either of low potency and ineffective or are stolen and spurious. Such a situation, persisting since long, decades, not years, needs to be checked now. A new vigour has to be injected in this vital sector. Hospitals hygienic conditions ought to be improved as well as medical and para medical care. People expect a lot from their elected governments.
They are justified in expecting miracles from this government also. Miracles do not and wont happen, but a start can be taken without delay. This would require a comprehensive planning and earmarking of funds, both for educational and health sectors to improve the job and health facilities in the country. Unfortunately, the government has failed to control prices. Germany, like most of the western world, is in crisis also.
Inflation has hit US and Europe also. But there the governments of the day, have kept peoples welfare in minds. Germany has reduced prices atleast 17 different times in last two months. The latest example is of France, where the newly elected President, realizing the economic crisis, has cut down government expenses including salaries of ministers etc, by 30 percent.
These are lessons for us in Pakistan also. Earlier Gordon Brown, succeeding Tony Blair as prime minister of England, had slashed salaries of ministers by 5 percent. Here in Pakistan, it is just the reverse. Finance minister Hafeez Sheikh should remember that the budget will be his trial for competence. He has to make crucial and even unpopular decisions for the larger interest of the country. Talks of shoving 100,000 more people in an already hugely oversized government and then raising the salaries by 25 to 30 percent of government employees, are unwise steps—against the established principles of economy.
Wages are frozen in economic turmoil, nor raised. We have all the sympathies for the government servants, but they are not the only one needing sympathies. There are vast segments of the society needing government help, and there are vital sectors of economy needing allocation of money. Striking a balance is therefore the need of the hour. This is no time to increase salaries, because it would put pressure on private sector which is already overburdened with problems, gasping for breath already to survive.
How could they resist employees pressure for more wages and better emoluments. Steel mill, PIA, Railways need money. These are vital segments of national economy and need a deeper look. Unfortunately, the government seems indifferent about them. Thanks somehow that the President has taken matters in his hands to pay some attention to vital energy sector. He has held a series of meetings.
The petroleum, electricity, gas sectors needs greater subsidy for industries to run, and enhance production, which is at grossly low levels of its existence. This can be done by withdrawing or drastically reducing government levy on petrol. Ministers should cut down on their salaries and allowances. This principle applies to parliamentarians also, most of whom have fat purses, or are counted among the richer classes either because of their ill-gotten money or from inherited wealth from their ancestors.
They can afford to subsidise their expenses. The fleet of cars—the Sindh government bought 100 more new cars, and is planning to buy more—must revise its strategy. A party claiming itself to be sympathetic to be poor man’s causes, is concentrating on ensuring luxury for its leaders. This is intolerable. Most importantly, the government has to spare the State Bank of burdening it with loaning operations, In 2007, SBP and scheduled bank loans to governments were Rs 507 billion, which skyrocketed to 3,611 billion till march 2012.
This is horrifying state of affairs. Printing of notes will only tend to increase inflation, and prices which are already at their peak, will go further up, and deprive the poor or the middle class from feeding themselves or their dependants. Children schooling, and clothing for the family has already reached elusive stage. It can not be allowed to go unchecked.
The government need to take some harsh measures, and explain to the people that it has a stupendous task ahead to restore their respect and living standards. It can not increase salaries now. People will have to be told to tighten their belts, but before that those at the helm have to be role models, and avoid involved taking huge entourage on luxury trips abroad. The government has to stand up and be a model now to help the economy recover.