FINANCE Minister Ishaq Dar has already announced that the federal budget for the financial year 2023-24 would be presented in the National Assembly on June 09 but preparations for the budget are not as brisk as they were in the past mainly because of political tension and uncertainty as well as extraordinary delay in the resumption of IMF programme. Business leaders have complained that the PDM government has not invited them for any consultative sessions to incorporate their proposals in the budget, fuelling fears that it will be an IMF-dictated document which will further complicate the economic situation.
The Government is, no doubt, in a catch-22 situation as there would be serious implications of both the scenarios – presentation of a popular or IMF-dictated budget. The present assemblies would be completing their tenure in August and it is understood there are election-related requirements for a democratically elected and political government but subsidies and relief measures for various segments of the society would invariably derail the programme with the IMF. And in case, the government prepares and presents the budgetary proposals in line with the IMF conditions, the electoral prospects for the coalition government would dampen dramatically. The choices are difficult but the government will have to adopt a prudent policy in view of the ground realities, especially the fact that neither the economy nor the common man can further sustain the burden of ever-rising inflation. There is dire need to revive the economic activity and for this purpose, the government should hold intensive consultations with all stakeholders to come out with a workable strategy. Apart from dialogue with the representatives of the trading and business community, the government leaders should interact with representatives from other strata of the society through pre-budget seminars and conferences as prudent policies cannot be devised in closed doors.