Federal Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh carried on with the ritual of holding post-Budget press conference on Saturday, when he admitted that the government had failed to create jobs and conceded that it had failed to do something for one of the categories that the PPP claims as one of its own, youth. His claim that the government had given relief to the people by abolishing special excise duty and regulatory customs duties, by cutting the GST by one percent and raising the taxable limit, papers over the fact that these measures were not anti-inflationary. One of the major omissions of the budget was any measures to tax agricultural incomes, which was duly pointed out at the press conference. Agricultural incomes being a provincial subject, such a tax would be imposed by the provinces, whose budgets will be watched with some interest for this, but if imposed, agricultural income tax will owe nothing to the federal government, not even being factored into the budget. This has meant not just a chronic shortage of cash but a permanent dependence on borrowing. This borrowing has meant that the government has not had the wherewithal to spend on health and education sectors which have always been neglected in order to make room for defence and debt servicing. It so happens that spending on defence is essential generally, but especially at this juncture, when the country faces a multitude of threats. Spending on debt servicing is essential to maintain the credit of the country, and thus to sustain its currency, as well as its governments abilities to get fresh loans. Since the loans mean the creation of the fiscal space to carry out the requisite defence expenditure, debt servicing is also required. However, the IMF has set as a condition the requirement that the government contain its deficit, and while that condition means that the government is bound to contain its expenditures, Dr Sheikh gave up yet another opportunity of detailing the measures he was taking to get his colleagues to stop their extravagances, which amount to placing the burden for their luxurious lifestyles on the taxpayer. The press conference was not really notable for the quality of the answers, but only for the odd way in which they were delivered. Dr Skeikh was not more forthcoming in his budget press conference than in his budget speech, except that it should have helped convince him that the best path for Pakistan economically would be to shed the IMFs economic tutelage and with it the USAs political, and adopt independent policies, both economic and foreign. If the Finance Ministers voice is added to the rising chorus coming from all over the country, the government, no matter how much it might be beholden to the USA for its existence, will not be able to resist any longer.