Rejecting the budget before even its presentation
The third national budget of the PTI government, announced by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin on Friday, is expected to lead to a new phase in the Islamic republic’s unpredictable politics.
The ‘far-sighted’ opposition parties had rejected the budget many days before it was made public, saying it would be “anti-people”. They had also declared that they would give the government a tough time during the budget session and not let those in power get the budget passed from the National Assembly.
The noisy protests witnessed during the Friday session (because of which the speaker had to call in sergeant-at-arms to avert any ugly situation) and the immediate reaction of various parties to the new budget were in line with the rejectionist approach decided much before.
Then, setting aside their strong differences that led the PPP to part ways with the Pakistan Democratic Movement, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N President and opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif have decided to cooperate with each other to block the new budget.
In an unprecedented move, the PPP chairman has already placed his party legislators at the disposal of the opposition leader for any strategy about budget in the house. This is equivalent to giving a carte blanche which empowers the PML-N President and three-time former Punjab chief minister to use the PPP lawmakers the way he likes.
After this common mortals may be justified in inferring that for opposition parties it is not the question of right or wrong priorities, less or more allocations for a particular sector; they have to reject the budget even if the PTI government had replicated the ‘ideal’ budgets given by the PML-N and PPP governments during their respective tenures.
And this is not a rational approach.
While opinions can differ on the priorities and allocations for various sectors, political leaders are supposed to enlighten the nation with their arguments for supporting or opposing any matter. Blind support or opposition doesn’t make any sense.
Apparently, ten percent raise in salaries and pensions; fixation of minimum wages at Rs20,000 per month; reduction in the prices of cars; tractors, agricultural implements; phones; edible oil; steel are good steps and should be appreciated.
If the budget is not pro-people or financial allocations are not as they should be, the responsibility rests with the opposition parties. Had they come up with their suggestions- and highlighted the same through national media- the government could have changed some of its decisions in the light of opposition’s proposals.
It will still be in the national interest if the government and the opposition cooperate with each other and frame best policies for the country according to the requirements of the situation.
But there is little possibility of any change on both sides. It is for this reason that speaking to journalists on Friday, Shehbaz Sharif emphatically vowed to not let the budget sail through the National Assembly. He said the opposition would join hands and expose the government’s "fudged" figures.
(It may be recalled that a similar allegation had been levelled against PML-N government’s finance minister Ishaq Dar and a huge amount had been paid in fine to the IMF for figure-fudging).
On Friday, Shehbaz Sharif lashed out at the PTI government. "When poor people are dying of hunger and unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing, how can they claim that the country is witnessing economic growth?" the opposition leader asked.
PDM and JUI-F President of Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that during three years of the PTI government, the economy remained stagnant as the rulers lack ability to improve it. He said incorrect budget figures were presented to hoodwink the masses.
While opinions can differ on the priorities and allocations for various sectors, political leaders are supposed to enlighten the nation with their arguments in support of or against any subject. Blind support or opposition doesn’t make any sense.
In the given situation, ten per cent raise in salaries and pensions; fixation of minimum wages at Rs20,000 per month; reduction in the prices of cars; tractors, agricultural implements; phones; edible oil; steel are, apparently, good steps and should be appreciated.
But, stormy sessions are expected during the budget debate.