AT last the contours of the coming Budget are being firmed up. The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance has been told that the total outlay of the 2010-11 Budget would be Rs 2923 billion, against overall revenues of 2160 billion, with a revenue collection of Rs 1711 billion. The deficit would thus be 5.1 percent of GDP. Of the total outlay, there would be a development component of Rs 601 billion, if the recommendation of the Annual Plan Coordination Committee goes through. At this stage, while the recommendations of the various committees do not usually go through without any change, they are largely predictive of the final shape of things as they will be presented. However, most significant is that the government has committed itself to a value-added tax, as well as a capital gains tax on the stock markets and the introduction of taxes or increase in the rates of existing taxes, such as the corporate tax. There will also be an end to, or reduction of, subsidies on seven major sectors, such as wheat, sugar, fertilizer and electricity. However, the Budget was perhaps not that difficult to predict, because the dimensions that have been made public were agreed in advance by the government with the IMF in exchange for balance of payments support. The Budget neither provides the public the relief it craves after so many years of being pummeled by rising prices and shortages, nor does it address any of the myriad concerns which have developed among the citizens. The end to subsidies will not affect the War on Terror, for which a subsidy of Rs 120 billion will be budgeted, irrespective of the need to contain the deficit. This need has been imposed by the IMF, but it has not been applied to the War. This is another example of how the USA forces poor countries like Pakistan to pay the costs of a War it has imposed. This has put Pakistan in the position of subsidising the American taxpayer, even as it has promised to end subsidies for its own people, who will also be heavily burdened with taxes at the insistence of the same multilateral lending agency. There is still enough time for the government to prepare a budget friendly to the people, though that would mean sending the IMF packing, and ending any arrangements with them. It would also mean ending the present policy of following the USAs wishes in its War on Terror, as the IMF only ensures that its clients follow the American diktat. Pakistani budget makers must realise that the problems they face are mainly caused by the countrys participation in the War. Once that participation ends, the need for foreign handouts would cease, and there would be no further dictation of our budgets.