Budget expectations

It is through the budget that the government outlines its sources of income from domestic and foreign sources like direct and indirect taxes, duties on imports and exports, foreign loans and assistance from friendly countries and internal financial institutions. It further indicates how it will spend the available resources, usually on programmes, developmental initiatives, welfare measures and for providing facilities and services to the people in the rural and urban areas.
The incumbent government assumed power in a very difficult situation in April 2022 and faced enormous economic problems due to a lack of resources in the national kitty and fears about debt default. The situation demanded it to make major difficult and unpleasant decisions to avert the threat of a default and stabilise the economy as much as possible.
Ideally, foreign exchange reserves of a country should be adequate enough to finance imports for at least three months. During the last few months, Pakistan experienced a sharp decline in foreign exchange reserves to the point that the mention of figures has been avoided.
However, financial experts are confident that through some unpleasant, bold and major decisions taken by the government and with emergent financial assistance coming from friendly countries and international financial institutions, the country has averted the impending default.
There were some fears about the country declaring a state of economic emergency but these rumors have been firmly denied by the official quarters. Foreign assistance coming from Saudi Arabia, China, UAE and Qatar and the finalisation of a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will reduce the pressure off of the government. The substantial hike in petrol, electricity and gas rates are also likely to decrease costs through the elimination of subsidies.
The middle class and poor have been hit the hardest by soaring prices, making their lives more difficult with the passage of time. There was great expectation from the budget to bring about some control. There is a general impression amongst the people that the economic principle of supply and demand is being exploited by hoarders and black marketers who are creating artificial shortages and causing prices to increase. The reality is that there is no such shortage in the country but that such changes reflect the growing pressure of debt and evolving global trends.
The government should cut its non-essential and avoidable expenditures to the maximum extent. Austerity measure like cutting the petrol quota of the ministers and officials is a good step to take and focus should be on enforcing this from the top to bottom strictly.
Relief measures should come through the ministries and public development programmes for which billions have been promised in the budget. These should be initiated and completed in time so that their benefits can be availed by the people. The move to increase salaries and pensions, while adding to national costs, aid the and will enable them to fight off inflation to some extent at least.
The previous government had launched a number of relief-oriented initiatives under the umbrella of Ehsaas Programme, besides continuing the Benazir Income Support Programme. These must be reviewed and examined at the appropriate level for the sake of the people. They must be retained.
In all fairness, the federal government also expects the people to honour their national financial obligations like the payment of income taxes, indirect taxes and duties faithfully so that we can get on top of the economic situation now at least, even though it is rather late. It further expects the people to avoid the misuse and abuse of the financial resources placed at their disposal to the maximum extent possible.

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