THE official propaganda preceding the announcement of the budget 2009-2010 that it is designed particularly to give relief to the poor failed the test of reality, as State Minister for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar read out her speech featuring main points of the document on the floor of the National Assembly on Saturday. PM's Adviser on Finance Shaukat Tarin also could not remove the impression in his press conference on Sunday that as in the past, the poor stand short-changed. Not that they had much hope about a miraculous shift in the thinking of the leadership that has provided enough evidence of its inability to meet their needs in the past year or so. Doubling the allocation of the Benazir Income Support Programme to Rs 70 billion is hardly the way to go about removing the curse of poverty from our midst. The BISP consists of bimonthly handouts just to keep a relatively limited number of the beneficiaries afloat; it does not help them throw off the crutches of dole-outs once the programme comes to end, which it will one day. Nor is the reduction of the import duty on mobile phone handsets going to make the growing number of people living on the margins of society any less frustrated at the rising cost of living. The serving and retired bureaucracy gets some rise in emoluments but not good enough to meet the challenge of inflation, leaving it in sum poorer. And then through the reduction of subsidies in the power sector and petroleum products the government would take back more than it gives out. Social sectors - health and education, for instance - should have received added attention from the government so that the lower income groups could get the benefit. The resource gap is supposed to be met from foreign aid, and if it does not materialise or is delayed, as quite often is the case, through recourse to the IMF, which is committed to help us out to the tune of $2 billion but not without taking a pound of flesh by means of crippling conditionalities. With this uncertain external financial inflow to bridge the gap, one gets an uneasy feeling whether the intention is to keep us barely surviving. The purpose should rather have been to create conditions for economic revival of which, sadly, there is hardly an indication in the budget. Understandably, the budget has evoked mostly unfavourable reaction. The various chambers of commerce and industry fear a large-scale closure of industrial units in the coming months since the budget does not provide any major incentive to recreate confidence. Our financial managers should read the signs of economic recovery in various parts of the world and prepare the country to take advantage of the emerging scenario.