WHETHER budgetary conditionalities of the IMF, directives of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), manouvering of the statesmanship or commonalities of the common man, budget of the pandemic times is a very challenging proposition indeed. So very simply and honestly, budget of any “developing” country, has a very clear-cut two-pronged implication. One a success budget with common man’s interests at heart and on board. The other is only a lipservice to layman backfiring sooner or later and somehow or the other.
As such, national budget of any democratically elected government ideally, objectively and practically needs to be of the common man, by the common man and for the common man. If such is the case with Pakistan, our national budget planners need to devise and implement value-adding or socially and economically beneficial provisions for the commoner. True important are such commonly understood priorities like employment generation or job opportunities, facilitating affordable public utilities and transport, provisions for better health and environment, quality education at affordable cost, public safety and security, law and order in society. But even more basically men at the helm of our budgetary affairs are expected to exhibit second to none emotional maturity, seriousness of purpose and penetrative thinking to innovate, refurbish and implement out- of-the-ordinary or top-of-the-line blossoming strategy for the commoners.
Enlightening strategy for the common man takes on the grassroots level and daring challenge of preferring production by the masses over mass production replacing the traditional practice of one hand feeding ten mouths with each family member working and contributing to the family budget.
The point here is that our worthy social and economic experts and our miracle management messiahs somersault into unknown but positive hunting grounds of discovery and creativity that inject and infuse in our masses and the less- privileged self-confidence for self-reliance through tailored-to-perfection skills and trades towards a welfare society enabling us to stand tall in the comity of nations with grace, dignity and honour and not as seekers of alms, charity or loans craftily labelled as development cooperation.
Let this be a budgetary challenge initiating from the pandemic times to stabilising year after year by our worthy and illustrious economic messiahs and management gurus to innovate and implement for the masses such vocational training skills and programs that enable them to stand on their own feet to earn a respectable living and to contribute to the family budget towards a better and brighter family and society.
We are at the crossroads in the aftermath of our current national budget. On the one hand, we are grappling with the World Health Organization (WHO) agenda recommending that Pakistani authorities reimpose a strict, intermittent lockdown targeting localities with high Coronavirus spread, as cases in Pakistan increase exponentially since most restrictions were lifted after Eid.
On the other, easing of the lockdown to enable the daily wagers to survive for a bare living and business and corporate sector opening amid a disorderly, distressed and dwindling national economy. Protagonists of easing the lockdown are vying for more stringent and stricter SOPs with instant penalties and punitive action against the violators indeed.
Corona is the call of the “glorious uncertainties” amid budget of the pandemic times as even the best of the gurus do not know as to how long it will last. But here is echoing “survival of the fittest” syndrome demanding from our statesmen, leaders, gurus, experts and the public best of the best physical, neurological, social, economic and financial immunities. Toughest ask and task for survival and sustenance sake. Gross National Product in Pakistan increased to 14435379 PKR million in 2019 from 13806113 PKR million in 2018. Very good. While GNP remains the sole indicator in measuring the socio-economic development of a country, is it not the real Gross National Happiness (GNH) that needs to count over and above the GNP figure fantasies!
—The writer is freelance columnist, based in Karachi.