THE maiden budget announced by the coalition government has sent reassuring signals all around that the lead
ership has the necessary vision and commitment to tread the path of reforms to address fundamental ills of the economy and at the same time ensure well-being of different segments of the society.
Finance Minister Miftah Ismail presented the budget for the financial year 2022-23 with a total outlay of 9502 billion rupees envisaging measures aimed at sustainable economic growth, industrial and agriculture development and relief for the poor.
PTI leader Imran Khan has rejected the budget but a majority of the people tends to agree with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who, in a statement, said that in the difficult economic circumstances, the coalition government presented the “best possible” budget, which showed its sincerity and capability.
It might not be an ideal budget but the Government definitely deserves appreciation for basing budgetary proposals on the premise of much-needed agricultural and industrial development, resource mobilization and mitigation of woes of the under-privileged segments of the society.
There is a resource crunch and the coalition partners were under great public pressure to initiate developmental projects in their constituencies especially in view of approaching general elections but even then the Government showed magnanimity in announcing that all projects initiated by the PTI Government would continue to receive funds.
This is true national spirit and runs counter to the previous practice when projects launched by one Government were abandoned midway by the successive government not on merit but due to political reasons.
The proposal to increase the threshold of taxable income from the existing 0.6 million to 1.2 million is going to benefit the lower and middle segments of the salaried class.
The revision of tax slabs is also meant to help people spend more, improve economic activities and increase the collection of revenue in indirect taxes to the national exchequer.
In line with its policy of providing relief to the hard-pressed groups, the budget envisages a fifty percent reduction in tax on Behbood, Pension and Shuhadaa accounts of National Savings, benefiting thousands of families.
Increased allocations for Benazir Income Support Programme, new initiatives under the scheme, cash grant of Rs 2,000 per family per month for those having income up to Rs.
40,000/- and continuation of subsidy on essential items through the network of Utility Stores Corporation would complement efforts to offset the impact of skyrocketing inflation.
Tax on import of luxury vehicles and import of mobile phones is understandable as those enjoying luxuries of life should be made to contribute to the national exchequer.
However, tax on deemed income from unused property is anti-business and is also reminiscent of Mian Nawaz Sharif getting life-time disqualification for receivable salary.
This, together with other taxes imposed on the housing sector, would negatively impact the overall economic activities in the country and must be withdrawn if the government is genuinely interested to seek revival of the economy.
No nation can progress and prosper without focus on education and with this in view the decision to allocate Rs 44 billion for development schemes of HEC under PSDP, which is 67% higher than the previous financial year is a proof of the government’s commitment to the welfare of the youth.
Scholarships, a loan scheme on low interest rates and laptop schemes have also been included in the budgetary proposals to help poor but talented students.
Youth Development Centres would be established throughout the country and young people will be able to access an ‘Integrated Job Portal’ and guidance through these centres.
The government’s commitment to accelerate the pace of industrial activities is reflected in the directions given by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to make special economic zones at Rashkai in KP, Lahore in Punjab and Dhabeji in Sindh operational at the earliest by provision of Sui gas and electricity on a priority basis.
It is, however, regrettable that no worthwhile allocations have been made for development that helps stir economic activities and create employment opportunities.
This has obviously been done to accommodate the demands of the IMF, which has also made the government agree on slapping Rs.50 per litre petroleum levy for additional Rs.300 billion income, which would make things difficult for the common man.
There is a modest increase of 2.7% in the defence budget and the defence forces have also decided to join the national campaign for savings by announcing to observe Friday as a dry day (no transport would run except for emergency).
Hopefully, the government, backed by the entire nation, would be able to tackle the challenges facing the economy as is also reflected in the new budget.