Record, relief budget 2012-13

Courtesy:- S Rahman

The government of the longest serving democratically elected prime minister of Pakistan, has set two national records simultaneously that of a tax-free, incentives-laden budget (2012-13) and presentation of the budget consecutively for the fifth time.

This sounds good indeed and makes us believe that henceforth the democratic dispensations will no more be derailed by overambitious non-political and non-democratic forces. From now onwards, the people of Pakistan will be deciding their fate themselves i.e. through their elected representatives, as they have been doing during the last four-and-a-half years (approximately).

This smooth continuity of the elected structure will also put an end to other compelling problems and crises, drawing strength from collective wisdom of the elected representatives of the masses.

The federal budget 2012-13 is, for sure, an improvement on the previous budgets in many ways in that it takes care of all the contributors and constituents of national economy, may they be traders, industrialists, agriculturists, professionals or ordinary citizens. This improvement is quite tangible and easy to decipher, as compared with most of the budgets of the past about which ordinary people had been complaining for the reason of complicated figure-work.

Now, everything has been laid down before the people of Pakistan and their representatives in simple, plain words which reflect Gilani government’s determination to provide solid relief to the people, despite the difficulties faced by the government on the economic and political fronts (political wrangling and opponents’ incessant moves to dislodge Zardari-Gilani duo through legal-cum-media campaigns are consuming too much of energy and time of the party in government).

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, his government and, especially Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh, must be given credit for preparing and presenting a balanced, relief budget. It owes primarily to the government’s reliance on — and thorough deliberations with — all the engines of economic power, particularly the business community. Finance minister, in particular, has been touring different areas of the country and meeting the representative bodies of traders and industrialists besides inviting their suggestions and recommendations. Likewise, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani, too have been holding parleys with the business community representatives like for instance, meetings with APTMA (All Pakistan Textile Mills Association) office-bearers. Some senior office-bearers of the APTMA are on record having claimed publicly that their input had been incorporated in the government’s financial plans.

Even now, following the presentation of federal budget 2012-13, one of the most vocal Chambers of Commerce and Industry, namely Lahore Chamber, has expressed satisfaction over the business friendly budget. This is, in a way, a tribute to the federal government and its finance managers from a city that is believed to be the stronghold of PPP’s staunch rivals, Sharif brothers.

Some steps that have drawn applause from different segments of the society are concrete arrangements for provision of internship jobs to 100,000 youths and the raising of the ceiling of taxable income. Salaried persons have heaved a sigh of relief after having come to know that they would be required to pay income tax only on income above Rs400,000 ceiling. This is quite a rational decision. Yet bigger decision is the raise in salaries of government servants who belong to the category of people badly affected by inflation.

And while there is lot of hue and cry from Punjab chief minister about ‘bowing before Aghiaar (foreigners),’ the Gilani government has set a practical example of this ‘independence from Aghiaar (foreigners)’ as, according to Hafeez Shaikh, Gilani government did not borrow any money from the IMF during the last two years.

And as was expected, full attention has been given to the problems of loadshedding and energy crisis. The government has already paid subsidy of Rs250 billion to cover the gap between the production cost and supply price of electricity. Now, in the federal budget 2012-13, Rs183 billion have been earmarked for ending loadshedding and Rs39 billion have been allocated for nuclear energy.

Above all, the poor-friendly BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) has also received a boost of another 10 billion rupees. In the same breath, the government, in order to provide further relief to the poverty-stricken people, has announced a subsidy of Rs208.59 billion on edibles and Utility Stores (new stores would be set up). Additionally, Rs10 billion have been earmarked for citizen compensation and pensioners including Employees Old Age Benefit (EOBI) pensioners would be getting additional 20 per cent raise. People would also be getting cheaper drugs since customs duty is being reduced on 88 pharmaceutical raw materials.

The business community in particular has lauded the reduction in turnover tax from 1 to 0.5 per cent and abolition of different categories of GST to form one slab of 16 per cent. The importers are equally happy over the reduction of highest customs tariff from the present 35 to 30 per cent. And the government’s serious intention to abolish FED (Federal Excise Duty) within a period of next two years, is deemed very appropriate. Already, the FED on cement has been cut and abolished on 10 items.

In the budget, there is a provision for honouring the honest, regular tax payers. And that was direly needed since the regular tax payers were unhappy over equal treatment at par with tax evaders. The budget has now provided for a Taxpayer Honour Card that would be given to dutiful tax payers who would be facilitated at different government counters like Nadra, Passport office, Immigration and other such places.

In the agriculture sector, besides other beneficial-for-farmers’ schemes, the government has now allocated Rs2 billion for Benazir tractor scheme.

And with the idea of reviving the sick industrial units in public sector, the government has allocated Rs209 billion as sick units’ subsidies whereas education too has got priority more than ever before as now the allocation is going to be Rs47.87 billion.

Apart from all this, one announcement that has delighted the whole nation is that the present PM House is being converted into a higher education institution. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani will now move to smaller premises.

This takes us to one conclusion that where there is popular will, there is relief.


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