|- Illustration by Sabir Nazar|
Today I presented the budget on the floor of the National Assembly. Mian Sahab asked if I couldn’t have put it on a table at least. First I unveiled the Pakistan Economic Survey which showed how we successfully missed all our targets from the previous year. Failure is a great motivator and we are now more motivated than before, aiming even higher at seven per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
We model this complex economic percentage on Mian Sahab’s own growth rate, which is roughly four to seven per cent a year depending on the quality and frequency of paaye.
As before, 16 per cent of the budget will go to the armed forces in their continuing war against undeveloped real estate. 30 per cent will go to international debt servicing, what’s left over will be spent on local debt servicing, then personal debt servicing, then debt accumulated on international debt servicing, then debt accumulated on local debt servicing and so on. The remaining one per cent will be spent on next year’s metro bus project.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do anything with health and education again this fiscal year. Money is tight, so our section on health will only carry a written encouragement for people to eat well and remain physically active. The education budget will raise the salaries of teachers just enough so that they stay in the profession but not enough that they take it seriously.
We want to improve revenues generated through taxation, mainly by taking more from the people whose tax is deducted at source. Government employees will be pleased to learn that their salaries are now basically taxes with a small amount of pay attached.
We are increasing the tariff on cigarettes so we encourage more citizens to smoke for the good of their country. We’re also increasing the minimum wage so more people can be employed in the informal sector for half that amount.
I will also make an addendum to this year’s budget to set up a School of Journalistic Etiquettes and Mannerisms. During the budgetary press conference this extremely rude media gentleman kept standing up and abusing me with questions, queries and other inquisitive statements. Journalists must remember their place and realise that I am presenting a budget not a matrimonial request; there is no reason to ask questions.
Besides, there is much to be happy about.
Before we took over two years ago, inflation was at 12 per cent; we have brought it down to four per cent, foreign reserves are at a historic high and the dollar exchange rate has stabilised under my personal care.
Experts are making positive reviews of our economy, Pakistan is offering investment opportunities which few countries in the region, other than India, Iran, Bangladesh, China and possibly Afghanistan, can match. Goldman Sachs has predicted that Pakistan will be the 18th largest economy in the world by 2050, only a few years after the world will have perished from global warming or nuclear fallout. On the development end, energy must remain our main priority. Last night, I hurt my shin against a table while trying to calculate the fiscal deficit during a protracted session of load-shedding. No finance minister or country can make progress in the dark.
Funds have been earmarked, nosemarked and footmarked for national development programs like more canals and dams, expensive wind projects that might produce enough energy to power Mian Sahab’s drawing room, and the Lahore-Karachi Motorway which could change the fate of this country and convince people from Karachi to finally visit the rest of Sindh.
The development of Gwadar to make it ready for the 46 billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a top priority, including a new airport and a new population which is not from the surrounding areas.
Pakistan’s economic growth needs a flourishing export sector. Textile being the cornerstone of our exports will be given more exemptions in addition to the ones on tax and customs duty, like exemptions on worker’s rights and electricity bills.
Also, in this budget we have decided to give a new name to the IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons); they are now TDPs (Temporarily Displaced Persons). By the next budget, we hope to give them an entirely different three-letter acronym altogether.
Moreover, we are going to give the country a number of new schemes like the Credit Guarantee Scheme for Small Farmers (where farmers under 5’2” are considered small), while the Prime Minister’s Scheme for Provision of Laptops to Talented Students (PMSPLT) will simply be shortened to The Laptop Scam (TLS) to save typing costs.
We have further constituted a Water Transport Fund (WTF) and a Land Mortgage Assistance Organisation (LMAO) to help with water shortages and self-financing, respectively. We hope that, like last year, out of the 50 proposed new initiatives, at least one will make it to 2016.
Yours truly, Munshi Ishaq Dar
This satirical diary was originally published in Herald's July 2015 issue. To read more, subscribe to Herald in print.