Grandiose promises of ending loadshedding and bringing unprecedented development to the country are likely to be part and parcel of the budgetary speech, and this year’s presentation by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was no different. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) swept the elections on the back of promises of economic development, which is why critics have constantly pointed out the missed targets of growth decided for the budget in preceding years. This is the PML-N government’s last budget presentation in this stint of its five-year rule, meaning that it must deliver if it hopes to get voted into power with an overwhelming majority once more. But is this budget really the panacea of all financial troubles the country is facing, or is it likely to be just another case of over expectations humbled by little productive output?

Pragmatism dictates that the public keep its optimism to a minimum, based on previous performance. To be fair, there have been significant improvements to the national economy under the current government, but ignoring the help received by the drop in oil prices in the international market would be unfair. In the current budget, the sharp increase in taxes as a means to increase revenue in the of Rs120 billion has the obvious side-effect of inflation, which will manifest itself in a very obvious way for the average consumer in the next year. Everything from electronics, footwear, food, beverages, steel and telecom equipment are likely to see a rise of 5 to 15 percent of taxation.

However, if this leads to development in the short run, the voter might think of this increase as worth it. This budget also features a record Rs1.001 trillion for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), which is directly linked to CPEC and energy related projects. With 10000MW promised as a result of this infrastructural development-heavy budget, if the government actually manages to finally deliver on its promise of ending load-shedding in its last year, it might just be seen as successful in the eyes of the public.

But there are other issues that lie completely ignored as well. The government’s quest for development completely ignores human development – sectors of health and education do not feature into the government’s grand plans. In a speech that went on for almost two hours, human development got little over a minute. The federal government promised bringing money spent on education to 4 percent of the total GDP, but four years down the line, it has not even come close to fulfilling this promise, and yet another budget has gone by without being able to achieve this target. With this sector being handled by the provincial government, Finance Minister Dar had promised that the centre would allocate at least 0.8 percent of this from its own pockets, and yet, with 132.52 billion in this year, the total budget increase still only stands at 0.45 percent of the GDP, compared to the promised 0.8 percent.

Without important sectors such as health and education worked on, the actual gains made from development-heavy budgets will always be a fraction of what is actually possible. It is hoped that the next government has a different set of economic priorities.