Does the Budget address the distress caused by the pandemic?
With the government placing great focus on infrastructure and health care, this makes for a decent Budget. Health care demanded a major boost and the government has done well on that front. Putting in more money into the Covid-19 vaccination programme was necessary; the vaccine drive will play an important role in the economic recovery.
Additionally, the consumer will hopefully have more to spend in the short term, which will push up demand. But I think that sustaining this demand in the long run will be a challenge. Also, I suspect that the schemes announced will mostly benefit the businesses that are viewed as being close to the government.
Will this Budget help the economy and create jobs?
Among the good things that have come out of this Budget is the introduction of a vehicle scrapping policy. This will not only help in phasing out old cars in a proper manner, but also propel people to buy new ones. The auto sector employs a large number of people and this move promises to generate even more employment. As for other industries, the effect of the pandemic has been such that the road to recovery is a long one.
What is the best thing about the Budget? And the worst?
Given that the vehicle scrapping policy will also help in cleaning up the environment, it is perhaps the best thing about this year’s Budget. On the other hand, the cess on petrol and diesel — while it will not be directly passed on to the consumer — is something to worry about since fuel prices can have a knock-on effect on so many businesses. From buying groceries to using public transport, fuel prices play a role everywhere. Even Pakistan pays less for petrol than us. If we are to keep inflation in check, petrol and diesel prices must be paid attention to.
If you were the finance minister, what would you have done with the Budget?
I have a radical point of view: the government mustn’t tax income, but tax only spending. The changes that we normally see in the Budget are all cosmetic. To ensure better growth, we must raise savings and abolish income tax.