COMMON MAN AND THE BUDGET
Although no increase has been made to petrol and gas prices but the prices of gas is likely to rise
By Faraz Siddiqui
Jun 26 - Jul 02, 2000
Budget 2000-2001, many called it the best budget that can be presented by any government in prevailing circumstances. There are others who disagree and predicts that there will be mini budgets which actually decide the direction. Disecting the merits or demerits of budget is not an easy task. This budget is also reflects high targets, expectations and optimism, but the real pros and cons of this budget will come after some time.
Salaried class got a sigh of relief on the decision of allowing income tax relief from 5 to 80 per cent tax concessions, depending on the salaries, an annual bonus of Rs 2000 is also given to government employees of 1-16 grade for the religious festivals, however it will be effective next year. Salaried class which has always been the worst victim of high taxes and ever-increasing inflation seems satisfy with this reduction of their tax liabilities, teachers and researchers are also given 50 per cent off on their tax liabilities. These are good moves but will not provide any shield against price hike because of increasing inflation and no increase has been made to their salaries. Consideration to disabled persons by giving duty reduction on imported cars from 15 per cent to 10 per cent reflects it as people friendly budget.
Reduction in rate of returns on national saving schemes (NSS) will give big jolt to the retired pensioners, widows and other persons who are totally dependent on the income of such schemes. Such people are looking for a sympathetic reconsideration of government regarding this issue. Maintaining the limits of income below which profits of such needy persons remain unaffected can be a better proposal in this regard. Meanwhile it is positive step not to reduce the interest rate who have already deposited in national saving schemes.
Government has increased the diesel prices by 70 paisas on high speed diesel and 55 paisas on light diesel oil. This increase will be resulted in burdensome prices of public transport fares. Although no increase has been made to petrol and gas prices in the budget but it too specially prices of gas is likely to rise which will put more burden on common man.
Poverty alleviation claimed as a top priority on government's agenda with the allocation of Rs 21 billion for the programme. Poverty is the main problem in our country and a big proportion of population is below the poverty line. Through government's food stamp programme 1.2 million poor households are offered Rs 2000 annually for their assistance. Assistance from Zakat and Ushr programme has also increased from Rs 300 to Rs 500. But we see that government did not take any proper measures to eradicate or cut down the root cause of poverty in the country. Increase level of poverty is a big threat for the economic development of country, daily wage labourer and peasants should also be given attention.
Giving great attention to the public development, government has increased allocation for Public Sector Development from Rs116.2 billion in 1999-2000 to 120.4 billion for the year 2000-2001. But it is strange, less allocation to such key sectors like education, physical planning, women development and manpower and employment than last year. The sectors like education and employment play a key role in the prosperity of the countries, reduction in the budget of such key sectors is a big questionmark. Allocation for SAP also slashed down does not seem to be a positive move in the country where large proportion of population is unemployed and hardly meeting the both ends. Keeping in view prevailing situation, administration may have another look on these policies to mitigate the sufferings of the common man.
Micro credit banking system which is going to be operated from August 14, initially provide credit ranging Rs 20,000-25,000 to the needy people specially household women working at home and unemployed. It is also a very good move but once again should be coupled with well management and proper vigilance to keep the process of credit clean.
Meanwhile no increase has been made to the prices of commodities of daily use. Decrease in import duty on sugar will bring down the price of sugar in the market. No increase has been made to utility rates but it can only benefit the common man if sustain for a long time.
We are lagging far behind in IT and software development, a separate division has been made for IT development under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Rs 15 billion has been allocated for the promotion of information technology in the country. Reduction in the cost of internet band width by 53 per cent will help common man. Number of tax exemptions and concessions will indirectly help the commons with low prices.
Government seems promising not to present mini budgets in future, but it is too early to say something. Let it through the time to decide that whether this budget will pace the country's economic development and condition of common man or not. But it must be kept in minds that failure to implement has always been the drawback of policies in Pakistan, So implementation machinery should also equipped with sincere, honest and skilled leadership in order to lead the target set. Seemingly it is futuristic budget specially in the circumstances in which it is presented.