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Manipulating budget statistics

Ahmed Chinoy

The writer is an elected Director on the Board of Pakistan Stock Exchange Limited.

The PTI government has presented its second budget for the fiscal year 2020-21. Federal Minister Hamad Azhar’s speech was balanced but the truth will come out only after the budget figures are unveiled. A budget is a document prepared by the government presenting its anticipated revenues and proposed spending for the coming financial year.
Business activities across the country have been paused for the past three months following the outbreak of the coronavirus, making it extremely difficult to present a budget. The positive thing is that this year Pakistan has received relief in terms of repayment of external loans. Due to the relief, the government could not have had a better opportunity to work for the improvement of the country’s economy. If the government could take advantage of this opportunity, it could be the best budget in history.
The government’s claims of not imposing new taxes are false. The government has imposed indirect taxes in the Budget 2020-21 and no steps have been taken to reduce taxes. No policy has been proposed in the budget regarding the stock market, which gives the impression that the stock market does not matter to the government.
The government ignored the textile sector, engineering sector, chemical sector, steel sector, and cement sector which are the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. With regard to the budget, every sector hoped that the government would propose a package to offset the damage caused by the lockdown, but it is unfortunate that the government has completely ignored the affected sectors. In the current situation, the government does not seem to be able to meet its revenue targets.
Hotels, restaurants, cinemas, and other small industries are closed, leading to a significant drop in revenue because the country can only progress when the government strengthens the economy. When there is no business, the target of Rs4.9 trillion tax revenue will not be met.
The government has allocated Rs10 billion for the agriculture sector, which seems like a cumin seed in a camel’s mouth. Pakistan is self-sufficient in wheat, rice, sugar, and cotton and the government has missed the opportunity to develop the agriculture sector in this budget. Pakistan can address its economic difficulties by increasing its agricultural productivity because if the country recovers from the coronavirus crisis, it will be possible only on the basis of its own production. In such a situation, Rs10 billion to the agriculture sector is rather insignificant.
Big industrialists use their influence to get their recommendations approved, but small traders businesses cannot. The government prefers those who rely on loans instead of SMEs and if they stop taking goods from big industries, the economy will face a big loss.
The incumbent government blamed the previous government in the last budget and coronavirus pandemic in the current budget 2020-21. It is time for the government to take stern steps to revive the crippled economy and encourage small businesses to support the economy; otherwise, the budget can be called the manipulation of statistics.
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