The poor masses and government employees had great hopes to benefit from the budget, but it brought disappointments instead of providing any relief.

I would like to point out that the current budget is nothing but playing with the statistical figures just to complete the usual budget formalities.

The government has no vision to steer the country out of the COVID crisis, which is going to increase manifold.

The minds of leadership in the government are frozen as they are working without a vision and have not been able to decide the best course to control the pandemic. This fact is reflected in the budget as we see no extra provisions for the health sector allocated to control COVID-19, which is the real issue today.

COVID will continue to hunt its prey unhindered as there is no effective policy backed by budgetary provisions. We are dealing with this monster in a very casual way and the public is suffering.

The government has confessed that there will be 1.2 million COVID patients by the end of July, whereas I indicated a month ago that there will be over two million cases by mid-July.

The budget has also failed to identify which segment of the society it is directed for. The public at large thinks that it is neither serving the business class nor the daily wager.

The government has clearly failed to demonstrate a sense of leadership when our country is facing problems on every front, whether it’s the COVID crisis, the locust invasion or high inflation. Massive unemployment, falling revenues and negative economic growth are among the top failures of the government to contain COVID.

Income tax rates have been raised from 25 to 35 percent. The zero-rating facility for 5 export-oriented sectors was withdrawn last year with the promise of timely refunds, but those industries have been suffering to get timely refunds and it further adds more closures.

No one in the government seems to take the blame or responsibility of inflation, mishaps, air crash, locusts attack, sugar and wheat price debacle.

The new fiscal budget 2020-2021 has been designed in line with a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package as the government puts a ferocious array of taxes on almost all sectors of the economy.

All the income tax payers will bear a significant brunt of the new revenue maximisation effort in the new fiscal year on July 1.

The government has increased income tax rates from 25 percent to 35 percent at present as the government is aiming to raise Rs258 billion of additional revenue from income tax alone.

The government has eliminated the zero-rating facility from five export-oriented businesses and has imposed 17 percent GST as it is expecting to raise 250bn incremental revenue from sales taxes.

The rulers are trying to join the bandwagon with other countries saying that the COVID-19 pandemic reversed the growth rate, without realising the fact that the government’s performance was unsatisfactory anyway, even before the corona breakout. They are trying to stand behind the excuse of the pandemic to justify the series of their failures.

It is also to be noted that the other countries of the world have remained under strict lockdown condition, which is affecting their economy whereas in Pakistan, all business and activities have been on the go like normal as no serious lockdown has been imposed as of yet.

The government has not given relief to the salaried-class, instead, it is freezing the pension and salaries of civil servants.

The agriculture sector holds a major share of contribution to the growth rate of our country, but the government has still not announced any relief for the farmers.

While we are in the middle of a pandemic, our health sector receives only 25 billion at the federal level and overall, only 1.3 percent of the share.

The government has also missed out on the following issues that needed to be paid attention to in the budget.

There was no adequate allocation for water management, no required allocation for farmers, no IT zones budgeted and no allocation for education development or to improve the aviation sector including PIA. There was no plan or proper allocation for environmental programmes, none for self-employment to curtail unemployment or even for rehabilitation plans post-COVID.

The government has no intention to invoke the force majeure law because of this natural disaster to get loans written off. We are once again in the clutches of IMF because of the unwise policies of the government.

Note: Opinions expressed are solely my own and not necessarily to reflect the views or opinions of my party.

Senator Rehman Malik

The writer is a PPP Senator, former Interior Minister of Pakistan, and Chairman of think tank “Global Eye” and Senate Standing Committee on Interior. He can be reached at: rmalik1212@gmail.com, Twitter

@Senrehmanmalik