Friday’s meeting to review the budget proposals with respect to the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2023-24 indicates that the government does recognise the need to place emphasis on development in the next year. With inflation and unemployment on the rise and the rupee devaluation adding to the impact of price and production in the economy, it is clear that Pakistan needs a reset in some respects to be able to move forward.
This means that once debt servicing commitments are met, development has to be prioritised for growth. Creating jobs and opportunities for business growth must be a big focus for the government in the next budget. While the initial noises indicate that the government is taking a step in the right direction, a lot needs to be done to be able to achieve the very ambitious growth rate of 3.5 percent of GDP. For that to happen, at the very least imports will have to be reopened to allow production to resume in key industries, not to mention that these industries will have to be provided with an uninterrupted supply of energy for them to be able to function without incurring unplanned for losses.
Another priority sector is IT, but with the government still using the internet as a tool to suppress dissent, it is clear that our authorities do not truly grasp the importance of this sector and what it needs to grow.
The biggest question however, remains on how the government is managing to fund all of its plans for the coming year. There is no point in having ambitious targets if those have to be continuously revised with mini-budgets to make them more achievable. The government plans for the PDSP to be supported with funding from the private sector, and naturally is looking to secure a new programme with the IMF. However, until this is finalised, any plans made are subject to change and adjustments by the international lending body. It remains to be seen how many revisions the government will have to make to its plans and targets before the budget is actually passed in parliament.