Budget season is in full swing in the federal capital with the Prime Minister calling a high-level meeting to discuss possible relief measures for the public in the days to come. The meeting, which has been tentatively scheduled for Thursday (today) comes only days after the government slashed fuel prices.
With Finance Minister Ishaq Dar set to present the budget to parliament on Friday, all corners are abuzz with what the budget will look like. While the final shape it takes will become apparent on Friday, for now the government has approved an estimated 3.5% GDP growth target for its 2023-24 financial year budget.
The figure has been deemed unlikely largely because of the rising difficulties the government faces on the economic front. Debt servicing is the most crucial element of this budget with Pakistan’s lenders breathing down its neck. Without any foreign exchange reserves to speak of, keeping the country from defaulting on its sovereign debts has proved difficult. With the need to find money and increase taxation, it is unlikely that the budget will provide much relief to the public. With elections nearing, governments often depend on people-friendly budgets to shore up their vote bank. That is perhaps why the PM is trying to find measures to make things easier for a nation that is day by day facing growing inflation and economic hardships.
There is quite clearly a sense of urgency coming from the Prime Minister’s office. In a ‘Most Immediate’ letter dispatched to the Secretary of Petroleum by the Prime Minister’s Office, a Deputy Secretary of the PM Office sought soft and hard copies of relevant information and documents pertaining to the meeting’s talking points, as well as minutes from the last two meetings on the subject. Additionally, the letter sought a copy of any previous presentation made and a list of participants.
The letter emphasised the importance of timely submission of the required materials, stating that as per previous instructions, all necessary information must reach the Prime Minister’s Office at least two days (48 hours) before the scheduled meeting to allow for the Prime Minister’s perusal.
It is worth mentioning that the general public has been grappling with skyrocketing prices of essential commodities and high transport fares, despite the recent decrease in fuel prices. The lack of relief has been observed both in the refusal of transporters to reduce fares and in the failure of industrialists to lower the prices of their manufactured items.
The discussion is expected to focus on devising effective strategies and measures to ensure that the benefits of reduced fuel prices are passed on to the public, providing them with much-needed relief.
By addressing the non-compliance of reduced fuel prices by transporters and industrialists, the government aims to alleviate the burden on the common people, who are struggling to cope with the escalating costs of living. The meeting will likely explore various options to ensure that the benefits of reduced fuel prices are realised by the masses and help mitigate the adverse effects of inflation on their livelihoods.
As the meeting approaches, anticipation builds for the measures and decisions that will be taken to bring about tangible relief for the public. The outcomes of this gathering will be closely monitored, as they have the potential to significantly impact the lives of ordinary citizens, providing them with much-needed respite from the economic challenges they currently face.