A relief oriented budget

PML(N) deserves credit for presenting a relief and incentive oriented budget for financial year 2017-18 in the last year of its governance. The budgetary proposals envisage a number of concessions for different sectors of economy including industry, agriculture, poultry, health, education and transport.
Despite the fact that this is considered to be the last budget of the present Government before elections scheduled next year, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team deserve credit for presenting a fairly balanced budgetary estimates that take care of different segments of the society as well as the need to increase the resource availability to meet growing developmental expenditure as well as other financial requirements like defence and war on terror. Fix income group was expecting a substantial relief and the Government has not disappointed them as Government employees and personnel of armed forces would get significant increase in their salaries and different allowances. The decision to merge 50% adhoc allowance and grant of 10% additional relief allowance for the next year would mean a handsome increase in carry home pay besides benefits for those proceeding on retirement hereafter. Similarly, the Government has also granted ten percent increase in pension, which would provide solace to those who spent their lives in the service of the state. Minimum wages have also been increased by one thousand, which, we think, is not appropriate in the present circumstances and the Government should revise the figure upward when the budgetary proposals are finalized by the National Assembly. The decision to reduce rate of withholding tax on registration of vehicles would be welcomed by people as cars have become a need and not a luxury. Pakistan is facing multiple threats including those from terrorists outfits and external enemies and the geo-strategic realities demanded allocation of necessary resources for the armed forces. It is, therefore, satisfying that Rs. 920 billion rupees have been earmarked for defence expenditure. The most significant aspect of the budgetary proposal is huge developmental outlay of Rs. 2.5 trillions, which is highest in the history of the country. Federal development spending has been estimated at 1,001 billion rupee, which is twentyfive percent higher than the current financial year. The cumulative provincial annual development plans were estimated at 1140 billion rupees, a 27% increase over current year. Corporations like WAPDA and NTDC would spend 400 billion rupees on developmental activities from their own resources. Allocations for Azad Jammu and Kashmir have been enhanced from 12 to 22 billion rupees which will ensure rapid development process in the area. Gilgit Baltistan will also be given 15 billion rupees for its development projects as against 9 billion rupees during outgoing year. FATA’s development budget has been enhanced to 24.5billion rupees from 21 billion rupees. Higher Education Commission will get 35 billion rupees, social sector 135 billion rupees and special measures have been proposed for the growth of IT sector during the next financial year. Infrastructure gets priority in the new budget with huge allocations of 414 billion rupees including 320 billion rupees for National Highway Authority. The confidence expressed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar that the menace of load-shedding would end next year is also satisfying. There will, of course, be some burden on some sections of the society but hopefully they would contribute their share willingly in view of the difficulties being faced by the country in the face of drying up foreign inflows. There are already indications that the United States would slash down aid to Pakistan while home remittances by overseas Pakistanis are also decreasing. Therefore, we should cooperate with the Government in revenue generation so that we are able to speed up developmental activities, pay back foreign loans and reduce dependence on foreign aid. The Government should also focus more on agriculture and export promotion to help resolve problems facing the country on sustainable basis.

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