Pro-people, Mr Finance Minister?
Finance Minister Asad Omer will try, no doubt, but even his best efforts will struggle to put a positive spin on the mini-budget due for the 23rd. Even if this weren’t this government’s second finance bill in less than half a year, everybody would still know that a mini-budget is all about adjusting revenue figures, which clearly weren’t quite right the first time, very much to the upside. So, of course, it will carry some relief for traders, and good things will happen to the ease-of-doing-business initiative, but the crux will be about revenue and earnings.
And you don’t have to be Asad Omer to understand that, when it comes to revenue, exports is just not our best bet. Even devaluing the rupee a good 30pc over the last year has pushed exports up by only approximately one percent. So the big squeeze has to be about taxes. That is why much of the mainstream press, along with most economic experts, is already calling it a debt bomb. And just after the sweetener about expecting something very nice about the stock market, the finance minister caused yet more confusion – just the kind which has led to the latest bear rout in the stock exchange – by ruling out an IMF program yet again.
Perhaps the government should, for once, look at the situation from the common Pakistani’s point of view. The Naya Pakistan has already pushed up prices to levels not seen since before the last PML-N government. And there’s already talk that growth, which the last administration had managed to push to highest rate in almost a decade at almost six percent, will now sink to lowest in half a decade at just below four percent. Then there’s the volatility in the rupee which, along with causing uncertainty, has also pushed up prices of essentials including life-saving medicines. And nobody should need any reminding about what the government’s inaction has already done to the capital market. It would take a lot really, Mr Finance Minister, to make this mini budget about the people. All the best.