By Maria Khan.
So, it is that time of the year again when the Finance Minister, Mr. Ishaq Dar has taken the news channels by storm by unveiling the federal annual budget for the next year and to be very honest, what I, being an ordinary citizen of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, have derived after listening to his speech and reading the tickers is that this budget is a disaster for people who smoke and women who wear make-up and a blessing for people who enjoy call packages and are fond of luxury cars.
Having said that, I am aware of the fact that most people share the same mind set as I do because the technical language, terms and jargons used in the report of budget and elaborated by our Finance Minister are so mind boggling that general people, who do not have a knowhow of such terms are lost in the maze of his words and simple things are retained in one’s mind like cigarette mehnga and mobile aur mobile callain sasti!
Keeping simple things apart, as I go through the salient features of budget being published on various websites, I come to know the following things. Firstly, the websites say that there has been relief given to the general public in areas of health, education, salaries and daily necessities of life but how much relief and when will that relief be granted – is the main question as there has always been allocation of budget on such areas but after the budget debate is over, things continue to remain the same. The health and education sector seems to have been deprived from the honest allocation of budget as these are the areas that need to be and should be a top priority for the government but this is not the case.
Budget is a disaster for people who smoke and women who wear make-up and a blessing for people who enjoy call packages.
A huge amount of budget has been allocated to the Prime Minister’s Youth scheme and Laptop Scheme. When we look back, we come across so many stories on the scams that are being reported in such schemes. But, there is no accountability, no check and balance but more and more scams are being facilitated by allocating them a handsome amount of share in budget.
Then the Finance Minister never fails to allure the general public by saying that load shedding will be rooted out till next year followed by announcing a huge sum of budget for that too. But this is the sentence that the public has been listening to for so many years and is actually aware of the true meaning of this statement that ‘when elections are near – we make you hear – these golden words – so you may not despair’!
A ten percent increase has been announced in the salaries of government employees and pensioners.
The most interesting aspect of the Finance Minister’s debate was when he said that in order to discourage smoking, he has increased tax on cigarettes and other items like Betalnut (Chaalia) and Gutka. The thing that Finance Minister needs to understand is that when one is addicted to these things, one will go to any extreme to get these things and this may lead to another aspect that the finance minister could not think of – a rapid increase in crimes related to robbery and shoplifting because the deprived class of our society is habitual of such addictions and when they would not be able to afford it then we can think of the consequences that may be associated with the dispossession.
Coming to one other salient feature of the budget, the salaries of government employees, pensioners and labourers. A ten percent increase has been announced in the salaries of government employees and pensioners which is again a very dismal amount and the minimum wage of the labourers is announced to be fifteen thousand. These people, who are making the system work, need to be facilitated the most, but unfortunately, the higher ups are the people in this country who are filling their pockets and the lower class is just gaining the relief that hardly trickles down after facilitating the higher class. The working class – the labourers – can definitely not make the both ends meet in mere fifteen thousand because they are the ones who do the most work and are paid the least. This point can also be noticed when the budget says that tax on luxury cars has been lowered – again facilitating the higher class because none from the lower class can afford the luxury cars.
The prices of soft drinks have lowered so that one can enjoy sehar and iftaar with the fizzy drinks and sing praises of the government.
As we see that Ramadan is just around the corner but there has been no noticeable relief given on the food items. I wonder what kind of people we are – the price of main items of Ramadan like Dates and the vegetables have soared up to such an extent that they are out of the reach of common public. But, the government has been so kind in mentioning that the price of soft drinks and such embellishments have lowered so that one can enjoy sehar and iftaar with the fizzy drinks and sing praises of the government.
A budget, if seriously meant to facilitate the general public, should be a public – friendly budget with main focus on the areas like health, education, food, good amount of salaries for government employees and a good sum of wages for the labourers, a minimum tax on electricity and such related fields. There should be more taxes imposed on the higher class and a minimum amount of taxes should be imposed on the lower class. But this kind of budget, being presented yesterday, has a definite goal of making rich people more richer and the poor more deprived.
For a person, belonging to the middle, lower middle or lower class, who earns nearly fifteen to thirty thousand a month, this budget is definitely a practical joke as there has been no noticeable relief given to the people belonging to these classes in our society. Our media needs to raise this issue effectively that this budget is not a middle-lower-class-friendly-budget instead, media is creating rose coloured news stories on the makeup price hike thus neglecting the major drawbacks of the budget. If we see closely, a gigantic amount of budget has been allocated to the road projects and railways – the most favourite and loved area of the government thus raising questions on the priorities of government once again. If Pakistanis are not being provided with relief in the blessed month of Ramadan, then we need to check the evils that have dominated our society. If an ordinary Pakistani, like me, has to think ten times before going for grocery in Ramadan, then the level of faith of the people sitting in government needs to be checked. In Ramadan, when the Satan is all set to be chained, the monster in the form of Budget 2017-2018 in Pakistan has been set free which is ruining the life of ordinary Pakistanis. Well, concluding the issue on a serious note that if you cannot afford dates and vegetables this Ramadan, break your fast with fizzy drinks and enjoy the late night call packages! Just keep voting for the same party next time too and till the date no person from the lower class would be able to survive the inflation and burden of taxes. Ramadan Kareem!
Student of Media and Communication Studies and Lobbyist at Youth Forum for Kashmir. firstname.lastname@example.org