It is a smart move by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to unveil Rs 36 trillion shadow budget for the year 2012-13 seeking to reduce the deficit by 50 per cent by generating Rs 400 billion through existing direct and indirect taxation system. In addition to this, it proposes that an amount of Rs 190 billion allocated in the last year’s federal budget and not utilised should be incorporated in the forthcoming budget for the purpose of providing some relief to the masses. The MQM has also proposed that the government must reduce its non-developmental budget by 30 per cent and divert the money to the development expenditure to create more jobs. Part of this amount should be spent on subsidising items of  common use including flour, rice, pulses, meat, milk and edible oil that would provide some relief to the hard-hit masses. The MQM believes in rationalisation of sales tax and stressed for bringing agriculture and allied industry into the tax net without affecting the small farmer. It also wants to put an end to the menace of mini-budgets saying that if it becomes impossible for the government to raise prices, it should be allowed to do so by two-third majority support in Parliament.

If one carefully examines the MQM’s shadow budget and proposals it initiates, they appear to be in line with the aspirations of the people. It means that the MQM not only claims that it represents the poor masses, but also genuinely like to give relief to them. It is also interesting to observe that despite being an ally of the Federal and Sindh governments, it has not hesitated to call a spade a spade. But what is unfortunate is the fact that the opposition has, so far, not even thought of coming out with some budgetary proposals while the presentation of the federal budget is hardly a week away from now. How can the PML-N justify this indifference? Nawaz League has financial experts like Khalid Ishaq Dar and Sartaz Aziz who possess experience and yet it has not bothered to come up with solid proposals to make a positive contribution in the budget-making process. In fact, the whole opposition should have put their heads together to formulate a strategy to force the government to incorporate some measures that would render some relief to the people who are out on the roads to protest the sky-rocketing prices and load-shedding. The budget is being presented at a very crucial time when the national economy is crumbling and no foreign assistance is coming. Would that mean that we would have to revert to the IMF for more loans? And if the answer is yes, can we afford it?