LAHORE - The federal budget 2017-18 is less likely to give due benefit to the laypersons, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had promised in its manifesto for the May 2013 election.

The government, which has already missed its targets and broken promises for the betterment of laypersons in its party manifesto, appears to have taken two steps further back.

Although it has made the outlay of record Rs1.2 trillion for the development schemes, dominant feature of the budget is a struggle to even reach the target. The proposed budget is yet to be approved by the House but the level of dissatisfaction at the public level due to unabated price hike is going up.

The prices of utility items have increased. Industrialists has been insisting on meeting energy needs, easing taxation system, bringing in economic reforms and lowering the fiscal deficit.

The establishment of infrastructure bank has been announced in the budget but efficacy of the bank to build roads, bridges, dams etc, will be told in the future.

The government claimed turnaround of economy and further improvement in the next fiscal year, but the financial position of a layperson remained unchanged, exposing the claims of per capita income jump from $1333 in 2013 to $1629 in 2017.

It did not reckon the feature that absence of horizontal increase in the distribution of resources by pressing down the vertical financial power of the elite class through is denying financial empowerment to the poor – 50 per cent population of the country is already living below the poverty line with earning less than two dollars a day.

Contrary to the manifesto, no strict measures have been adopted to account for the easy money earned through tax evasion and strict accountability mechanism against the corrupt officers in tax department.

For the next fiscal, it has set the GDP growth at 6 per cent although the government has failed to achieve its set goals.

The PML-N in the manifesto had promised minimisation of reliance on the foreign loans, bringing down the current account deficit, fiscal deficit and increasing investment which all had bounced in the past.

Against import of $20billion, record $46billion imports have been registered despite an export package was announced which has been retained in the next budget with little hope of bringing about any difference.

Current account deficit ($7.30billion) is unlikely to come down though promise was made to lower it to a reasonable level through promoting local industry.

To meet the budget expenditure, the government has proposed another borrowing of Rs800 billion in the next fiscal year which reportedly, is going to add to the already received about $55billion internal and external loans by the government since inception.

In the budget, target has been set to initiate many projects especially on production of hydel energy through Basha dam, supply of potable water, increasing investment, etc when the party promised to complete them by the end of their term.

In the fiscal year 2015-16, the prime minister reportedly spent Rs260 billion and in 2016-17 it was Rs310billion which he spent over and above the consent of the assembly.

The election being only a year away, apprehensions are growing among the experts, that spending will increase further and the Rs1.2 trillion development schemes being coming through the parliamentarians as a means to gear up for the election, chances are bleak about their benefits reaching generally to everyone.

The PML-N had pledged to divert 50 per cent of the remittances to investment but it failed – the quantum of remittances increased to $19billion against $13billion before the election. The government has set 15 per cent contribution of taxes to the GDP – a far cry –but it again set an ambitious target for the next fiscal year.

For the sake of providing shelter to low income group of people, the budget again missed the promised construction of 1,000 bastis (settlements) comprising 500 houses each.

Against the pledged slashing the financial burden on the nation, the PML-N government is leaving every citizen burdened with Rs12,500 loan in the last year of the tenure.

Circular debts, which the party had promised to end, will continue to stay – over Rs300 billion in the next year.

Nothing has been concretely stated in the budget about revamping of the PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills which are continuing to be marred by over Rs600 accumulative debt burden.

The promised simplicity and austerity in the manifesto also remained under question throughout the last four years. The spending on the rulers on their visits abroad and needs continued to increase and the trend is likely to go on next fiscal year.

The budget promised “sustained and inclusive economic growth” through structural reforms but did not specify which reforms the party had promised in the manifesto.

Fiscal deficit of 4.1 per cent in 2017-18 has been laid which still is more than what the party promised.

The tax collection has been kept 21 per cent more the preceding year which indeed would a challenge. Inflation is unlikely to come down from six per cent.

In the fulfillment commitment made in the manifesto, many initiatives for the growth, agriculture and textiles sectors and the for poverty reduction have been announced. Availability of water for agriculture is also likely to remain a challenge when the government has made the allocation of Rs20 billion which is less than Rs5 billion from the preceding year.

An allocation of Rs180 billion has been in the CPEC projects that would mainly relate to industrial, agricultural and infrastructural development.

The PML-N manifesto envisions financial uplift and employment opportunities for the youth and women for which PM youth programme. No ‘national emergency’ is there to end illiteracy, nor minimum 4 per cent of GDP allocated for education and also no mention of the promised 2 per cent of GDP on health has been made in the budget.