Said Iqbal the inimitable, the greatest of them all, who could encapsulate the entire spirit of egalitarianism or mussawat and socialism in one verse - Jis khait say dehkan ko mayasar nahin rozi/Uss khait kay har khosha-e-gandham ko jalla dau - "burn down ever bushel of corn from the field that doesn't feed the tiller." This verse, from An Ode to Lenin (later God's Command to the Angels) springs to mind with every budget, every time the poor are taken for a ride. Then, says Faiz, a worthy disciple of the passion of Iqbal: "Such a fire rages in the heart when vultures snatch morsels out of the mouths of sobbing babes, the blood of the poor adorns the streets and the worker's flesh is sold in the marketplace", where "bodies caked in filth and bathed in blood are sold on roadsides and bazaars." Welcome to the economy of the land made in the name of humanity. All we have left now is our poetry, perhaps our latest opiate no matter how good and moving. Next it will also be fighting quail, flying kites and playing chess when not watching cricket while the armies of the enemy move in. Then our ruling elite will wear bells around its ankles and sing melancholy songs lamenting the loss of the great promise that was. This is what happens to those who perennially dance to alien tunes. Said Iqbal the inimitable, the greatest of them all, who could encapsulate the entire spirit of egalitarianism or mussawat and socialism in one verse - Jis khait say dehkan ko mayasar nahin rozi/Uss khait kay har khosha-e-gandham ko jalla dau - "burn down ever bushel of corn from the field that doesn't feed the tiller." This verse, from An Ode to Lenin (later God's Command to the Angels) springs to mind with every budget, every time the poor are taken for a ride. Then, says Faiz, a worthy disciple of the passion of Iqbal: "Such a fire rages in the heart when vultures snatch morsels out of the mouths of sobbing babes, the blood of the poor adorns the streets and the worker's flesh is sold in the marketplace", where "bodies caked in filth and bathed in blood are sold on roadsides and bazaars." Welcome to the economy of the land made in the name of humanity. All we have left now is our poetry, perhaps our latest opiate no matter how good and moving. Next it will also be fighting quail, flying kites and playing chess when not watching cricket while the armies of the enemy move in. Then our ruling elite will wear bells around its ankles and sing melancholy songs lamenting the loss of the great promise that was. This is what happens to those who perennially dance to alien tunes. In the Nineties I used to run a weekly magazine from Karachi called Politics & Business. Our cover for the 1995-6 budget made by the democratically elected people's government caricatured the legs of a man with his trousers fallen to his ankles. It was an instant hit because it said it all. No need to read the story. My problem now is that people have been left trouser-less, so there is nothing to fall to the ankles except their chins, which were dangling around their navels anyway. Not surprisingly, the adverse reactions by ordinary people to the budget are not so severe simply because expectations were zero. Protest requires life and energy, which the hungry farmer does not have, nor the lumpen proletariat that sells the flesh of its young daughters on the streets to stay alive. People who become mentally and physically numb gradually cease to care. As the maestro of verse Ghalib's explained, Ranj say khoogar ho insaan to mit jata hai ranj/Mushkilain mujh par pareen itney keh asaan ho gayeen - "When pain crossed the barrier and sorrow its threshold, my countless difficulties became easy to bear." What sort of a budget can one expect from a people who (as usual) take recourse to blaming everything on the predecessor government while holding a begging bowl in both hands? To be fair, while I have heard political ministers lament thus, I have never heard our non-political defacto banker finance minister stoop to such low levels. He says it as he sees it. Blaming the past is exclusively a political proclivity. No doubt Mr Shaukat Tarin did inherit an unenviable economic situation when he took over, but that was well into the term of the new democratically elected people's government. Two political ministers from the 2008 Parliament preceded him. The first was Mr Ishaq Dar, who had earlier been finance and commerce minister and much else in Mr Nawaz Sharif's second incarnation. The second was from Mr Naveed Qamar, who had been Ms Benazir Bhutto's finance minister during her second incarnation. Mr Dar is an affable guy and by all accounts a workaholic. I don't know Mr Qamar, but by all accounts he is an affable guy as well. He looks it too. By profession Mr Dar is an accountant, not an economist. Mr Qamar, I'm told, has been educated in some American university but I don't know his subject. In real life he is a Sindhi feudal lord, big or small I don't know either, but it should tell you something, that we're all children of the mindset of our class. Anyway, they both got another go at playing finance minister-finance minister and it is they who bequeathed to Mr Tarin his maggot-infested inheritance. During the Nineties, the musical chairs governments of these two gentlemen's parties left our economy in utter ruin. The State Bank criminally allowed our democratic governments to squander $11 billion of private money it held in trust - without doubt the greatest bank heist in history. Sharif was forced to freeze all foreign exchange accounts, thus not only negating the 'greatness' that had been thrust upon him by the nuclear tests but also doing our economic credibility woeful damage, second only to Mr Bhutto's thoughtless nationalisation. Minions of this government are at pains to have us believe that the Musharraf-Shaukat team left them to deal with a ruined economy and, according to Mr Dar, all their figures are fictitious and fudged - exactly the same thing that he was rightly accused of. Perhaps this was his peculiar way of getting his own back, little realising how much harm it did to the economy. Billions of dollars left our shores within days, leaving our reserves badly depleted. In January this year the PPP's Reza Rabbani, leader of the house in the Senate, denied that the government had written any letter to the IMF with a memorandum attached praising the economic performance of the Musharraf government. The cat came out of the bag when PML-Q Senator Tariq Azim furnished the letter and the memorandum to the Senate and the same party's Senator Nisar Memon said that copies of both had been distributed to members of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance a month earlier. There were red faces all over the treasury benches. So let us hear about the performance of the pervious government in the words of the present government. A Letter of Intent dated November 20, 2008 was indeed written to Mr Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, by Mr Shaukat Tarin, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs (defacto finance minister) and Ms Shamshad Akhtar, Governor, State Bank of Pakistan at the time, with a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies 2008/09-2009/10 attached, which inter alia states: "In the last decade, Pakistan's economy witnessed a major economic transformation. The country's real GDP increased from $60 billion in 2000/01 to $170 billion in 2007/08 (fiscal year starts July 1), with per capita income rising from under $500 to over $1,000. During the same period, the volume of international trade increased from about $20 billion to nearly $60 billion. For most of this period, real GDP grew at more than 7 percent a year with relative price stability. The improved macroeconomic performance enabled Pakistan to re-enter the international capital markets in the mid-2000s. Large capital inflows financed the current account deficit and contributed to an increase in gross official reserves to $14.3 billion (3.8 months of imports) at end-June 2007. Buoyant output growth, low inflation, and the government's social policies contributed to a reduction in poverty and an improvement in many social indicators. "This strong macroeconomic performance resulted from the implementation of a series of important structural reforms. In the early 2000s, with financial support from International Financial Institutions (IFIs), including the IMF, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, the government expanded the role of markets in the economy, privatised a number of large state-owned enterprises, established market-based regulatory bodies, and took steps to reduce the cost of doing business in Pakistan." Then come the real reasons for the economic downturn, which have nothing to do with the previous government. "The macroeconomic situation, however, deteriorated significantly in 2007/08 and the first four months of 2008/09 owing to adverse security developments, large exogenous price shocks (oil and food), global financial turmoil, and policy inaction during the political transition to the new government." And so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah... If you wish to read the entire lament get it from the IMF website. That's enough for this week. Next week we will talk about the obvious flaws and contradictions in our approach to the economy that every government has known about, paid much lip service to but done nothing about it because of the power of feudal interests, lack of adequate knowledge on the subject, lack of faith and gumption, lack of a belief system and thus lack of a true Ka'aba and Qibla. The writer is a senior journalist. E-mail: humayun.gauhar@gmail.com