Universal opinion has variously labelled Orientals as excitable or patient, given their economic circumstances South Asians have much to be excited against, yet year after year they receive the bad news in their respective Annual Budgets with what can only be described as studied calm. One supposes that having braced oneself for the worst, the lowered quantum of bad news is taken conversely (or perversely) as good news. In the respect of economic circumstances, the lot of the average Pakistani is better than that of his/her less fortunate neighbours. For this dubious pleasure, credit cannot be claimed by any mortal, Divine Providence having made Pakistan self-sufficient (or almost so) in the main human-requirement areas of food, shelter and clothing. Every successive Annual Budget has managed to increasingly cramp the lifestyle of the average Pakistani but in all fairness this is much more due to external circumstances than due to domestic inadequacies. Our problem stems from a singular lack of applying imagination to the concept of Revenue gathering coupled with the necessity for wholesale reform of the system. The Federal Budget remains mostly the same, making the poor poorer and encompassing a greater number of the hapless middle class into the “poor” category, it does manage to make a small coterie of rich people much richer. The worst hit are the better-life aspirants of the wretched middle class, already bearing the awesome burden of increasing inflationary pressures on hearth and home. While life goes on and the average Pakistani learns to be stoic, the rulers must not become complacent that the streets will never resort to wide-scale protest, to quote John Dryden, “Beware the Fury of the Patient Man”, unquote.
The coming Federal Budget promises to be a milestone, a truly once-in-a-decade turn in the financial road should be more than expected, the PM has been dropping enough warnings of impending tough measures. With a populist Government dedicated to the task of finding solutions for the common man, yet hobbled with an economy in utter shambles because of muddled half-baked policies towards the fag end of the last regime, the Federal Budget promises to be a fine balancing act between the need to re-invigorate the economy by giving intending (and present) entrepreneurs due incentive and the contradictory need for imposing more taxes as a form of additional revenue to run the business of Government. What is more possible is that the Government goes in for a one-time massive devaluation, telescoping the creeping method projected for the next year, thus building up badly-needed government revenues. This is in all senses of the word a risky enterprise, with the increase in cost of import, inflation is a sure bet. Big business has not taken to its heels at the advent of PPP, on the contrary amazing accommodation has been shown, barring few aberrations, on both the sides to come to a mutual working arrangement, this is a significant milestone for democracy, business feeling safer historically with the stability of Martial Law Governments. One wishes that the same pragmatism would be seen in the relationship between the Centre and the Province of Punjab so that Pakistan should shrug itself off from the present state of limbo and get on with the task of economic emancipation. The churlishness has gone far enough, the governments at the Federal level and the Provinces are not petulant Under-19 teams.