AS the Finance Adviser, Dr Hafeez Sheikh, gave a briefing to the Prime Minister on the next years budget and apprised him of the paucity of resources, hindering the inclusion of enough developmental projects, Mr Gilani is reported to have remarked that new projects should not be initiated in case sufficient funds were not available. The Prime Minister must have confused Dr Sheikh when, at the same time, he advised him to lay particular stress on schemes that could create a positive impact on the lives of the poor and those that could generate economic activity. If the desired amount of funds were not forthcoming and no new projects were being undertaken, it is difficult to figure out how our planning team would be able to reconcile Mr Gilanis contradictory and, indeed, meaningless instructions. Besides, most of the Public Sector Development Programme is directed towards these causes, whether it is the construction of a big reservoir to supply water to the tiller of the land, or a power station to light homes and run factories or building a bridge to facilitate public movement. Thus, one should not be surprised to know that the briefing session where the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission and Secretary Planning Commission were also present, proved inconclusive, and could not finalise the next years PSDP. The only decision it took was not to start any new project. Dr Sheikh expressed the apprehension that in view of resource constraint it was possible that expenditure on new projects affected the ongoing works and that would have negative fallout on the countrys economy. The Prime Minister felt that the matter should be taken up at the National Economic Council, which was due to meet on Friday. Interestingly, the discussion never turned to the need to cut down non-developmental expenditure and divert the funds thus spared to the execution of projects under the PSDP. That such should be the thinking of the government that claims to represent the people who, it hardly needs repeating, are facing multiple economic crises, is shameful. Austerity should have been the main concern of our decision makers, particularly in these trying times. The attitude also exposes the official rationale of going to the IMF: it never was to revitalise the economy that depends upon undertaking large-scale PSDP projects, and not abandoning them; the idea was to seek funds to protect the leaders lavish living styles, even if the IMFs conditionalities, unconscionable rise in utility tariff for example to meet the shortfall in revenue, would result in a hungry nation.