The government of Pakistan today announced yet another federal budget. The provincial governments will announce their own budgets later on. We, in Gilgit – Baltistan, need not to worry about ‘budgets’ because we get readymade budgets, crafted by the bureaucracy. Our budget, by the way, stood at a little more than five billion rupees, this year, as against the budget proposed by NALA. And, of course, NALA can’t change anything in the scriptures delieverd from Islamabad. Leaving this discussion aside, for a while, let’s try to look into the budget.
The budget has been termed by some as awam dost, others have called it an ‘eyewash’, still others say that it is all about playing with numbers. Not going into this debate of words let me share a few positive signs, that I saw, in the budget.
The increase in social development budget is laudable, despite of the many constraints faced by the country’s economy. Equally important is the increase in budget for education and health. This, however, is not an innovation. The previous government (s), in its various forms, had started this trend of increased allocations for social and economic development.
Unlike the past government, nonetheless, duties on import of ‘non-essential’ items have been increased, including chocolates, jewelary, cars, mobile phones and other luxury items. These commodities are not equally needed across our largely malnourished society, with the exception of mobile phones. Similarly, the salaried class, which does not make a very huge segment of the society, will feel a little relief. I almost laughed at the Rs. 75 increase in the ‘medical allowance’. A good, full plate, Biryani at our university canteen sells at Rs. 80. What ‘medical benefit’ are the employees of the federal government going to make out of this ‘raise’ is still to be debated. But, then, prices of 18 medicines will go down because of the abolishment of import duties. This must be the ‘balancing effect’.
Karakuram Highway made us proud by being mentioned in the ‘house of power’. More money, they said, will be spared for its expansion. Let’s hope that they have considered compensations par international standards, as our own Chief Executive had demanded, months ago.
Our brothers in rest of Pakistan might be happy or sad, depending on what the budget brings for them or what it snatches from them, shall we not be happy? At least we got the road!