The Budget 2011-12, as unveiled by Federal Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh to the National Assembly, may well have catered to the demands made by the IMF, and may prove useful to the government in obtaining its favour, to be shown by a successful negotiation and the resumption of the loan which it has so far withheld. But as for the poor, who should be the subjects of any budget, there have been no measures affecting their plight. Even the measure on which Dr Sheikh seems to have taken the greatest pride, the raise given to government servants, fails to have the effect claimed for it. The raise is not very substantial, and because it will end up causing the government considerable expense, it will be a burden on the exchequer, and because the government employs so many people, it will be thought to have a great effect. However, the 15 percent raise barely compensates for the inflation of last year, and does nothing to make government salaries in any way more competitive. Similarly, the rise in pensions will only compensate the erosion of incomes that have already occurred, only last year, and keep pensioners at the subsistence level at which they exist. The best thing that the poor could have got from the budget would have been a decline in prices. That has been limited, and will only happen on items which the poor man does not use, such as processed goods, sugar, cement, shampoos and beverages. Also, there has been no reduction in the price of fuel, which Dr Sheikh blamed on the international markets and which he claimed was a cause of concern for the government in the fiscal year now coming to an end. Another major concern of the poor has been loadshedding, both because of the discomfort being suffered nowadays, at the height of the heat, and because the loss of jobs resulting from it hits the poor hardest. The government should take pause from the reaction to the budget, and should realise that there is no harm in taking this criticism aboard in the shape of a revision, something which it can well do at the end of the National Assemblys budget debate, during the Ministers wind-up speech. However, this government has shown itself to be cavalier about budget secrecy, and thus may choose to disregard other parliamentary traditions involving the budget. It should know well that it can serve either the IMF or the poor people of Pakistan. It cannot do both, and in the current budget, it has not even tried. Perhaps, symbolic of the budget are the increase in the Benazir Income Support Programme, and the decrease in education spending. While giving away money to party activists, the real and long-term interests of the nation have been neglected, or rather spoiled. The nation is right in asking pointedly what is the point of an economist as Finance Minister, if the budget exercise is to be such an anti-poor exercise and directed mainly at pleasing the IMF.