Under the austerity drive of the government, all of the provincial governments providing a cash surplus of Rs202bn to the Centre in the first quarter of the ongoing fiscal year mean that the provinces have hardly spent a substantial chunk of their shares for the welfare of the citizens. In these times when inflation is the highest in the last nine years, returning such a significant amount to the Centre means that the provincial governments are not providing any relief to the citizens. The citizens are left on their own. It seems that the state has decided to run as per the dictates of social Darwinism. It is encouraging to see that the provinces can get with the program and are curtailing the expenses.

Moreover, it is also reassuring that the government seems to be doing an excellent job while reducing the deficit. Also, it tells us that the incumbent government’s intentions are pure, and it is sincere in taking the country out of the financial crisis. However, not utilising the development component of the budget means that the provincial governments are thriftier while spending on improving the living standards of the people. The provincial governments’ reluctance to improve people’s living standards, coupled with high inflation, will have severe consequences on ordinary people lives. The governments’ reluctance to spend on people’s welfare finds an explanation by a requirement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that compels the central government to come up with effective financial management. But is not spending development component of the budget the only way of improving the government’s financial management?

The federal government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) could have curtailed the current component of expenditure of the budget. Surprisingly, the government’s revised figures of the current expenditure show an increase in the statistics for the 2018-19 budget. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan – who makes lofty claims of making Pakistan an Islamic Welfare State – is not bothered by the contradictions in his claim and the fact that the cuts on development funds will harm the common man. The policymakers probably want to conveniently forget that Pakistan will see dramatic increases in inequality and child poverty under the auspices of IMF’s adjustment program. Needless to say that cuts on development component will damage the uplift programs, especially in the health and education sectors. The government needs to understand that development budget where allocated needs to be spent; if it is so keen on savings, they should be done at the budgetary stage, not the executive stage.