With the PM of the country adamant that we have to win the war on terror to survive, the cost that it is incurring might drown us anyway. Pakistan has faced $118.3 billion economic loss due to terrorism and the war in Afghanistan during the last 14 years, according to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The bloated military budget is usually cited to be so because of India, but terrorism is eating up a major chunk of these resources.

Presenting the ‘Pakistan Economic Survey-2015-16’, Dar said the country incurred $5.56 billion economic loss during the first nine months of the outgoing financial year 2015-16 against $9.24 billion loss of the corresponding period of last year. This was down by 40 per cent (or $3.7 billion), from losses suffered in the last fiscal year, and the credit goes to Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan playing a role in decreasing terrorism. Though the figures are true, the statement that it is Zarb-e-Azb and the NAP that have decreased economic losses might just be conjecture.

The majority of the losses inflicted by the war on terror, about 80 per cent of the total annual losses, comprise lost tax revenue and foreign direct investment. On paper, the decrease in terrorism sounds well and good, but there are other economic losses closer to home. These include the loss of livelihood of the IDP’s, the loss in GDP from the energy crisis and the loss to infrastructure due to climate change and natural disasters. Every year, the government has had to divert a substantial portion of its scarce national resources, including men and material, to address the emerging security challenges in the country and to repair infrastructure damaged in this war.

This is all a reflection of our security obsession. Until terrorism is eliminated, it will eat our resources up. Obsessed only with creating policy to tackle terrorism, the economy- job creation, revenue generation and social empowerment- takes a backseat. There is no two-pronged plan to cover both bases. With all of the Finance Minsters speeches and responsibilities as the right hand of the PM, the ministry and its master are already juggling too many portfolios. The budget will thus continue to disappoint. The demand from the budget is that it should offer ‘relief’- but it’s not a development package. It’s actually just a list of expenditures, estimated from the performance of the last year. Relief would come itself if there was more money made than lost in the previous fiscal year, but that hasn’t happened in a long time.