Beg and fly budget

News Analysis

By Farrukh Saleem

Monday, June 15, 2009

ISLAMABAD: Makhdoom Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, the 26th prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, was allocated Rs80 million a month for his foreign tours during 2008-09; a total allocation of Rs958 million or Rs95 crore. During 2008-09, the prime minister ended up spending Rs112 million a month every month for his foreign tours; a total of Rs1.3 billion in one year.
This year, Hina Rabbani Khar, PML-Q’s State Minister for Economic Affairs from 2003 till 2007 and now PPP’s State Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Division, has allocated Rs1..2 billion, or Rs10 crore a month.

If history is any guide, our prime minister will end up spending Rs1.7 billion or Rs14 crore a month every month on his foreign tours. Asif Zardari, the 11th president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has reportedly taken a meagre Rs230 million, or less than Rs2 crore a month, from taxpayers kitty (according to newspaper reports, the actual expense on foreign presidential junkets was much higher but the president took money out of his own pocket). This year, the presidential allocation under the head of budget for “staff, household and allowances” stands at Rs390 million or Rs3 crore a month.
Additionally, every member of our National Assembly has been allocated Rs2 million for “travelling, conveyance and air tickets”. At 342 strong that’s an allocation of Rs645 million or Rs5 crore a month.

What we have is a ‘beg and fly budget’. Beg the US, beg the World Bank and beg the IMF. Beg Japan, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Australia, Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Spain — the so-called ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’.
Imagine: three out of every four Pakistanis make Rs160 or less a day while the prime minister’s allocation in the budget 2009-10 for his foreign tours stands at Rs330,000 a day every single day of the year. Yes, the presidential allocation under the head of budget for “staff, household and allowances” stands at Rs100,000 day. Yes, every single minister or people with the rank of a minister cost the treasury Rs100,000 a day every single day of the year (we have nearly 90 of them in Islamabad alone).

Talk about misplaced priorities. Gilani gets Rs1.2 billion for his foreign tours and the law division gets Rs2.051 billion (for its three development schemes). The team of ministers in Islamabad cost the treasury Rs3 billion a year and the law division gets Rs2.051 billion. In 2007, fatalities in terrorist violence numbered 3,599. In 2008, the same figure shot up to 6,715 (as of June 9, 2009, a total of 4,518 Pakistanis have already lost their lives). This year, the police gets a paltry Rs13 billion. Look at the ‘carbon surcharge’. What a joke! What an eyewash! The government fails to collect taxes; the right way so this repressive mode of tax collection; a total of Rs122 billion, Rs8 per litre on high speed diesel, Rs10 per litre on motor spirit and Rs14 per litre on HOBC (the Kyoto Protocol established “legally binding commitments” only on Annex 1 Industrialised countries”).

It’s a ‘beg and fly budget’. It’s a status quo budget. At the end of the year, the government will miss the revenue target by 10 per cent or more and overshoot the expenditure target by 10 per cent or more. As a consequence, the budgetary deficit will not be the expected Rs700 billion but closer to Rs1 trillion. All the more reasons to fly. Within the next two quarters, our president, our prime minister and our army of ministers will all be flying. After all, they have got 510 million square kilometres to fly over.

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