When the newly elect premiere apprised the nation that it was going through a hard-hitting time and that some tough decisions would have to be taken, affecting all and sundry, including his incumbent team, it was not a shallow rhetoric as he was well aware of the gruesome state of economy and ready to sacrifice along with the masses he led; and why he couldn’t expect the nation, after all he was given a heavy mandate in the recently held general elections by his countrymen.Who would commit the folly of denying this very fact that the culture of exemptions and concessions must end if a self-reliant economy is to be built; and it is within the ambit of an average man’s prudence that all factions of the population must share the burden of resource mobilisation for running the state affairs. But it was for the first time that the incumbent head of the government decided to conserve the precious public money and there is a substantial cut of 45percent in the allocated funds for the PM Secretariat, which is a par excellence of austerity, begun at home. Thus, the expenses of PM Secretariat and Presidency have been slashed down by 45 percent and 14 percent. A decision of rightsizing in the personnel, working at PM Secretariat, was also taken in order to make optimum utilisation of the available resources and to reduce an unnecessary burden on public exchequer.Unlike its predecessors, the PML-N government has resorted to a small cabinet that, no doubt, led to hue and cry from many quarters on not being made a part of it, considering this very fact that the vulnerable treasury cannot afford the financial burden of a brigade of ministers. Resultantly, the sole criterion for this selection has been past performance and technical acumen of individuals that is commendable. Hence, non-development expenditure was reduced, an excellent attempt to rationalise the budgetary expenditure.Energy crises, in its worst form hit the nation and undeniably, whole of the country is badly gripped in loadshedding woes; it not only crippled the economic activity, but also became a major cause of depression and stark mental torture as well since, nowadays, electricity has become a necessity. Circular debt of Rs 500 billion, which is one of the major causes of this crisis, has been taken cognisance of in the newly proposed budget and funds have been allocated to settle it. There is every likelihood that it would serve as a quick fix solution in reduction of load management hours, providing the immediate relief to the aggrieved.The proposal to invest a sum of Rs 225 billion in the energy sector, half of which shall be spent on the development of projects, is a salutary step to be taken: Major focus of the current year’s proposed allocation for the energy sector is in two area: one, the conversion of oil furnace power plants to coal-based power plants and two, investment in renewable energy sources that exhibits a clearly farsighted energy policy of the government. In the longer run, this would, not only add cheap power to the national grid, but it will also substitute the current dependence on fuel oil to cheaper alternatives. It means it would provide relief to the end consumer in terms of low cost of production, resultantly a lesser payment of electricity bill due to decreased price per unit.Social sector functions have been devolved to the provinces. So the focus of the federal government is to radically alter and upgrade the fast depleting physical infrastructure of the country, since it is supposed to invest in the projects of high social returns such as education, health, population welfare and large infrastructure projects. There is no denying the fact that the chunk of resources, which directly benefits the ordinary man, is Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) as through this budget head, not only the quality of service delivery is improved, but the masses’ access to social welfare is also boosted. The PML-N government has proposed the highest-ever development budget of Rs 1.15 trillion that shows its unyielding resolve of improving the living standards across the country. Building a reliable and accessible social safety net for the poorest of the poor and the marginalised factions of society is unavoidable for these are the segments of population that are most susceptible to the extremist ideologies, if ignored. It is also heartening that the new government not only continued the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), but almost doubled the amount for it, i.e. raising its size from Rs 40 billion to Rs 75 billion. A 20 percent increase in the monthly support under this programme is also suggested. In order to maintain the financial credibility of the country among the comity of nations, it is mandatory to pay off the immediate liabilities, i.e. the instalments of external debt be paid timely. Depleting forex reserves of the country is an open secret now and there is no doubt in it that no matter whichever political party would have won the general elections and formed government, the IMF would have been the lender of the last resort for an instantaneous arrangement of cash for it. It is time we faced the reality and accepted the tough decision of one percent increase in GST, taken by the newly elected government as it is we, the people of Pakistan, who have given them a term of office to rule the country and by the virtue of this, we are duty bound to trust in the leadership.It is time that the nation realised its responsibility of supporting a legitimate civilian setup. This era is earmarked by information and rise of media and there is no doubt that an ordinary man is far more enlightened and informed than those who belonged to the era of 90s. It would be tantamount to sheer selfishness but illiteracy if an individual decries on one of the best budgets ever presented in the country’s history at a time when the whole country is trapped in the quagmire of terrorism, economic instability, the worst form of energy crisis, financially-stripped treasury and public institutions marred by corruption and bad governance. One must be patient to see the realisation of the vision presented in the financial bill, as it will not be realised tomorrow or day after, rather it is the first step towards the journey of a thousand miles that the nation is to travel steadfastly. 

The writer is a freelance columnist.