Budget a failure on multiple levels: Sherry

ISLAMABAD: PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman Friday said that it is not a national budget for a country facing a crisis.
In her response to the federal budget 2020-21, she said the budget squandered a huge opportunity to change priorities, like diverting resources to health as percentage of GDP. Instead of that it cut money for the provinces which run the social spending.
“As it stands this is not even a national budget. It’s a rolling accounting exercise led by the IMF. In four months they will be rolling the numbers again while firing people from jobs,” she said.
Sadly, like this government, it is a set of failures that Covid-19 has masked; Pakistan’s public finances were in free fall even before the COVID-19 outbreak, Pakistan’s economy was struggling to stay afloat with high interest rates, massive devaluations, crony capital sweet subsidies and falling exports. Revenue, which likes at the heart of every economy, never met their own targets, with one FBR head after another going through revolving doors, she said. The costs of maintaining such a government will be felt by many future generations of Pakistanis and the damage they are doing, or done before Covid-19 is incalculable.
She said, “The data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics shows that the year-on-year inflation in January 2019 was 5.6%. Whereas, by January 2020, the percentage had spiked to 14.6%. It is a shocking record of the highest inflation surge in the world. This happened way before the coronavirus pandemic hit us”.
This debacle of no-holds-barred borrowing was also done before Covid-19, she added.
Total debt and liabilities of the country rose by Rs2.597 trillion in the period running from July 2019 to March 2020. The total debt is now at 102.6% of gross domestic product (GDP). The PTI government during the first 13 months of its tenure has added almost 35% of the total debt that Pakistan had accumulated in the previous 71 years of its independence, she added.
Rehman questioned, “Why is PTI government taking credit for the decline in Current Account Deficit (CAD)? The massive decline in the international oil prices, a major import item for the country accounted for the dip in our CAD.”
“It is worrying that that our health spending is still around 1.3% of the GDP despite WHO saying that countries should be spending at least 5% of their GDP on health,” she said.
Climate change has as always been not given much importance even though Pakistan has been ranked globally in the top 10 countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years owing to its geographical location, Rehman said.
The senator said even though the agriculture sector target grew by 2.67% against the target growth of 3.5%, this government’s inaction had pushed millions of farm workers and small and subsistence farmers under poverty.
Rehman concluded by saying, “The federation has been put at risk by this government’s shambolic governance. Their inability to see beyond party narrative and personal egos has destroyed any vestige of institutional reform. Pakistan is facing two shocks: one of Covid-19 and the other of Nazism”.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and President Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Mian Shehbaz Sharif on Friday rejected the federal budget for FY 2020-21 calling it anti-people and warning that it would lead to further aggravate inflation and unemployment.
The Opposition Leader said in a statement that the government first tried to hide its incompetence behind Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and now it’s using coronavirus as an excuse. He said that inflation, unemployment and business stagnation are at an all-time high.
“The government first tried to hide behind the PML-N for its failures and now it is doing the same with the coronavirus,” he said.
Shehbaz Sharif said that the incumbent government’s budget would prove to be the final blow to Pakistan’s already ailing economy. He said that my fears have come true and labeled the budget nothing but a recipe for disaster.
“This isn’t a budget, but a path to destruction,” said Shehbaz, adding: “Unfortunately, the nation is paying for this government’s incompetence.”
The PML-N President said that the country is paying for the government’s incompetence because it is reversing PML-N’s adopted formula of higher growth and lower inflation. The budget announcement proves that the government is not ready to take the path of reform and wisdom, he added.
The leader said that the historic deficit of Rs 1.7 trillion in tax revenue was due to the performance of the present government as for the first time in 68 years, the country’s GDP has turned negative.
“The current deficit of Rs1.7 billion in tax revenue is the performance of the present government,” he said. “For the first time in 68 years, the country’s GDP has plunged to negative. Is this the incumbent government’s performance?” he asked.
Shehbaz Sharif said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor had been halted by the present government and reduction in development expenditures was not a good omen. “Where is their creative thinking, increasing exports, developing agriculture and industry, and
people-friendly budget measures?” he wondered. – TLTP, NNI

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