Budget 2021: A Tough Call | Editorial

All is not well with the world today. With economies still busy firefighting the uncertainties of the pandemic–second year in a row–designing a budget that lends a helping hand to all afflicted by the long-drawn-out malaise would be a very tough call to make. On top of that, PM Khan wants to push through development projects while containing the crippling inflation rate. A lofty goal, but one that would be hard to follow through.

Our fight with the coronavirus is far from over. Though Pakistan’s industries have largely resuscitated from the earlier standstill (our exports touched a 10-year-high in March), the much steeper jump in our public debt and liabilities narrates a moribund tale of the finances. Amid such troubling times, the ruling PTI would hit all the right notes if it helps the nation find the sustenance it needs right now.

Given the centre stage that health care has taken due to the tragic pandemic, it goes without saying that we need a resilient health sector. Initiatives taken to widen the umbrella of vaccination coverage and expand the overall healthcare system, would, ergo, be celebrated nothing less than a hail Mary pass.

Yes, infrastructure projects (water supply, sanitation and transportation) are crucially important for public welfare. Therefore, the premier’s decision to increase development funds of all provinces is a much-needed call. But any such noble directive should not be tainted by playing favourites with the constituencies. In the past, public-oriented development has been repeatedly tainted with the political designs of those at the helm of affairs. While Punjab’s capital, Lahore, prospered at a rapid pace, cities nearby were still decades behind when it came to infrastructure. CM Buzdar might be an unpopular commodity in the provincial political arena, but the fact that he ring-fenced South Punjab’s budget and spearheaded a multi-faceted development agenda in the most downtrodden districts under his reign, definitely, adds to his credentials. Replicating the same model all across the country would help Imran Khan become the voice of Pakistan’s most neglected areas.

It is obvious that his administration does not have a great external reputation. International media outlets spare no occasion to question his leadership or ridicule his policies. In their words, the skipper is destined to be a failure. Since nothing spells success like success, the government would be in a far better position if it comes up with a roadmap that revives the economy from the pit of degradation. Improving tax collection while focusing on income from other streams hold paramount importance in any budget. Yet, measures to support sectors with the potential to create jobs are just as crucial for public welfare. A sustainable growth rate is something the new finance minister needs to pull out of his magician’s hat. Let’s just hope Mr Tarin does well to offer the much-need public relief his boss has eyes set on. We have long heard of representatives painting the town red over the positive financial momentum. Now is the time to translate those intricate numbers into policies that work for the common man. After all, seeing is believing! To a simple and succinct budget 2021 (for the relief of all of us)! *

Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/752017/budget-2021-a-tough-call/

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