Business, people-friendly budget!



FINANCE Minister Ishaq Dar has expressed the determination to present a business and people-friendly budget for the next financial year. Chairing a meeting in Islamabad on Monday where a detailed presentation was given on the budgetary proposals for 2023-24, he said that the government was committed to ensuring that the new budget brings economic prosperity for all sectors of the economy and ensures the distribution of resources equitably among various sectors.

The pledge of the Minister is reassuring for inflation-ridden masses and the trading community which is worried over sluggish business activities in the face of resource constraints, rising cost of doing business and non-availability of raw material. Inflation rate is one of the highest in the world and, therefore, people have two genuine expectations from the government as far as the next budget is concerned – no addition in the tax burden and adequate relief to compensate for back-breaking inflation. Nothing can be said with certainty as negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached the make-and-break stage and it is to be seen how the government fulfils its pledge to present a people-friendly and pro-business budget with or without resumption of the IMF loan as this is intrinsically linked to the flow of external resources. One, however, hopes, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who has, so far, managed to run the economy effectively without the IMF support, would be able to translate his commitment into reality. As this is considered to be the last budget of the incumbent government, it would, of course, be the effort of the authorities concerned not to antagonize people further, who experienced the worst kind of inflation caused by the harsh measures introduced during the last one year at the instance of the IMF. It is, therefore, now time to provide necessary relief to different segments of the society, especially the fixed income groups like salaried people and pensioners. Similarly, incentives need to be given to the industry, particularly export sector, and agriculture to spur economic activities, encourage import substitution and create employment opportunities in the backdrop of massive exodus of manpower with serious consequences for the domestic market. There are no two opinions that the Government has to take measures for resource mobilization as part of the efforts to reduce dependence on foreign loans but this should be done by making all those pay who are earning handsomely but not paying their due taxes and not by squeezing the existing tax-payers further. As per media reports, the government is contemplating some moves like bringing retailers into the tax net but based on the bitter experience of the past when the governments were forced to withdraw such moves, it would be appropriate if the business community is taken on board before announcement of the budget.