Daily Briefs

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13 June 2020, Saturday, Vol 1, No.46, Special Brief

Pakistan Budget 2020-21: The First Cut

Pakistan Budget 2020-21; Huge expenditure; challenging revenue

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Pakistan Budget 2020-21: The First Cut
The Revenues are challenging to raise, and the Expenditures are impossible to reduce

The PTI when it formed the government in 2018, one of the slogans was the failure of the previous governments. When the Imran government first presented its Budget last year, it blamed the PML-N for all the economic ills. Two years is not a big period, but adequate; it should have adopted an economic policy, and multiple strategies to pursue it. And the annual Budget helps to fact check, and pursue a course correction, if necessary on both the economic policy and the strategies adopted to achieve the goals.

While one needs more time to analyze the Budget in-depth, the first cut based on a quick reading would reveal, there is neither an economic policy nor a strategy, that this government is aiming to address.

Consider the following. The most important aspect of any budget is the revenue; where would it come from for Pakistan? On what basis the Budget has planned for a 7.13 trillion expenditure?

If the 2020 budget takes pride that it would be a no new tax budget, where would Pakistan collect its revenue? The expectation in the Budget is that Pakistan will raise 5.4 trillion from through tax revenue. Economists have already been complaining that Pakistan has a narrow tax base, that needs to expand in size, and deepened further. With a slow economic growth set already and a narrow tax structure, 5.4 trillion is a tough expectation. The government is likely to announce a revised estimate in the next three months.

Given the current trends, agriculture and manufacturing is going to be hit by energy, exports, COVID, and locusts, need not necessarily in that order. With Pakistanis returning home from the Middle East, the remittances are going to fall further. The above would mean, Pakistan for this financial year is going to be heavily dependent on external investments, aid and grants.

Perhaps more from the last two, than the investment. The expectation of the government is there would be a 25 per cent increase in the foreign direct investment this year. But from where? With the global economic growth likely to slow down further with the COVID, where would the investments come from?

The above was on the revenue side. Now on the expenditure side.

As the COVID and its fallout would have underlined – the immediate need for Pakistan is to address the following sectors - health, public, energy and education. The new Budget has overlooked them, allocating a small portion of the Budget. Instead, the two big sectors of expenditure are – interest and debt payments (2.9 trillion) and defence (1.2 trillion).

The first one – interest and debt payment – the PTI may not have an option; but, on the second – defence, it has, but will not pursue it. Successive governments (PPP, PML-N and now PTI) have failed to address the interest, debt and defence expenditures.

Now the last point – political support. The opposition parties have called the Budget as anti-Pakistan and anti-people. The PTI government is in trouble to raise the revenue that it has planned to raise as per the Budget.

One should wait for the revised estimates in three months. And perhaps another budget – micro or mini.


Image Source: The Express Tribune

The Budget in Brief

Who gets what
Rs1.29tr for Defence expenditure
The Budget allocates Rs1.29 trillion for the next fiscal year's defence expenditure. This is an 11.8 per cent increase from the outgoing year's original allocation; 17.68 per cent of the total expenditure calculated for the upcoming year; and 2.82 per cent of the estimated GDP of the fiscal year. Federal Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar, during the budget presentation, mentioned that the Budget gives "adequate attention" to internal security and defence. Last year the military exceeded the allocation by 6.33 per cent. As a percentage of the GDP, Pakistan's is the highest defence expenditure in the region; followed by India (2.4 per cent), Iran (2.3 per cent) and China (1.9 per cent). These figures however do not include the apportionment of pensions, nuclear programmes and acquisitions by the military. In absolute terms, this year the Army will receive Rs613 billion, PAF Rs274 billion, inter-services establishment Rs262 billion and Navy Rs140 billion. ("Govt proposes Rs1.29tr for defence spending," Dawn, 13 June 2020) 

The Defense and Aviation divisions receive Budget for developments
A grant of Rs1.58 billion for Defense production and Rs1.3 billion to Aviation division has been provided under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2020-21. The defense industry will steer towards developing the shipyard of Karachi including installation of a transfer system and equipment to ease docking, repairs for submarines and commercial ships. Whereas, the Aviation will focus on building the Gwader international airport and setting up a rainwater harvesting unit in Kasana Dam. These plans were already in place waiting for funds. No new plans were drafted. (Tahir Niaz, "Rs1.58 billion for Defence Production," The Nation, 13 June 2020)

Interior division receives Rs14.76 billion
The government has emphasized developing the civil armed forces, border management to improve its infrastructure capacity. A budget of Rs6.6 billion has been given for present projects and Rs8.1 billion to new projects. Rs1239 million will be used to build the civil armed forces (CAF) to handle the Western Borders and in case new schemes Rs3154.6 million to be used for acquiring land for connecting water between Indus Water System, Tarbela Dam to Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Further, a provision of Rs697.48 million to improve security infra in Malakand, Swat & other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (Imran Mukhtar, "With focus on border control Interior Division gets Rs14.76 billion," The Nation, 13 June 2020)

70bn rupees for education, sewerage, solid waste management, clean drinking water and upgrading existing health services
As the Covid-19 challenges have increased the need for public investment for job generation, economic revival and poverty alleviation, the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for FY2020-21 has been set at Rs650 billion (including Rs72.5bn foreign assistance). 70bn plan will focus on health services, sewerage, solid waste management, drinking water and education. PSDP centers on project completion, rupee coverage for foreign-funded projects, funding for CPEC initiatives, priority projects in communication and transport sectors, finance mode innovations, and economic growth and equity strategy projects. A PSDP-plus initiative expects over Rs5 trillion investments across long, medium and short-term projects. As per Planning and Development Secretary Zafar Hassan, PSDP addresses key priority areas and Covid-19 responsive needs. PSDP allocates Rs80bn for power-sector projects, Rs14bn for food security, Rs5bn for environment and climate change, Rs24bn for SDGs and Rs179bn for minimum requirements, including priority projects and CPEC. ("Rs650bn allocated for development programme," Dawn, 13 June 2020) 

Three Hospitals for Karachi after a decade in 14bn
The federal government, after a decade-long delay, has finally allocated Rs14.18 billion for three hospitals – Rs3.877bn for Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Rs9.242bn for the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) and Rs1.07bn for National Institute of Child Health (NICH) – in Karachi. Previously, in May 2019, as notified by the federal Ministry of National Health Services, Karachi's three major hospitals were returned to the Centre owing to the Supreme Court judgement of January 2019. A Rs1,200bn special stimulus package has also been allocated to fight the coronavirus pandemic and mitigate its economic and public effects.

Further, the Budget allocates Rs150bn for financial support through the Ehsaas program; Rs200bn for financial aid to daily-wage labourers; Rs50bn for subsidies; Rs100bn to the FBR to pay export refunds; and Rs100bn for electricity installments and gas bills of the needy; and Rs50bn support for small farmers as loan waivers, subsided fertilizers and other relief measures. ("BUDGET 2020-21: Govt allocates Rs14bn for three Karachi hospitals," Dawn, 13 June 2020) 

Social Safety Net increased to 12 million households from 4.3 million
This decision was in the background of the wideing gulf between the rich and the poor. Monthly financial assistance has also been enhanced to Rs3,000 per month from Rs2,000 presently received by Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries. Pro-poor measures such as special cash assistance under the Kafaalat Programme; emergency cash assistance to 4 million beneficiaries from National Social Economic Registry of BISP; and emergency cash assistance to 3.5m district-identified beneficiaries. As per the Annual Development Plan 2020-21, social welfare systems must ensure living standards and security of citizens. This is crucial as deprived segments and socially-excluded populations (such as disabilities, internally displaced people, slum-dwellers, migrants, refugees, women and children) will benefit. ADP also details multi-dimensional aspects of the Covid-19 response. ("Budget 2020-21: Social safety net expanded to cover 12m households," Dawn, 13 June 2020) 

Higher Education Commission receives Rs29,470 million
While Rs23,044 million is allocated for ongoing schemes, Rs6425 million will be spent on new schemes during FY2020-2021. Development of new campus of Government College University (GCU) Faisalabad; 4-year undergraduate programme in Water Resource Engineering and Petroleum engineering at UET Taxila; establishment of IT and Library Infrastructure at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad are few of the projects. During FY2020-21 HEC could concentrate on four sectoral objectives such as greater access to higher education, enhancing the quality of higher education, ensuring higher education's relevance to national needs and incorporating the fourth Industrial Revolution. As part of the COVID response, HEC plans to develop national knowledge database for diseases to enable vaccine development and study of genomes and genetics of the coronavirus. ("HEC gets Rs29,470.000m," The News International, 13 June 2020)

Small allocation for the Health Sector
The budget has allocated Rs14.5 billion for the Health Sector. Compared to the previous years it shows only an increase of Rs1.1 billion, which will not help the provincial government to fight the pandemic. The health budget includes Rs22.774 billion for hospital services and the health administration is given Rs2.184 billion but for the public health services only Rs504 million is granted and Rs31 million for medical products, equipment which is highly in need. According to experts, a budget of Rs25.5 billion should have been provided mainly to support the training of healthcare workers rather funding for infrastructure developments. They also recommend for funds towards buying of medicines and technology to deal with the situation.(Muhammad Qasim, "No great support for corona-hit health infrastructure," The News International, 13 June 2020)

Who says what
The Industry is unimpressed with the Budget
The All Pakis­tan Textile Manufac­turing Asso­ci­ation (Aptma) says for the textile industry, the Budget is negative and has no positive aspects; reduction of energy subsidy from Rs24billion to Rs10bn is a further blow. The Pakistan Business Council (PBC) fears global exports would remain glum but appreciates the falling import tariffs and tax reduction on import of machinery and plant. The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) expressed astonishment in the Center's failure to announce large-investment boosting steps or incentives. The Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry feels there is no pandemic-related relief for businesses and industries in the Budget to tackle surging unemployment, falling factory outputs and incomes and the widespread aftershock of Covid-19. LCCI calls for extraordinary measures to tackle during and post-Covid challenges. Finally, the PLGMEA has ruled out the possibility of any surge in export. ("Comments: Budget fails to impress industry," Dawn, 13 June 2020) 

Conflicting views between the businessmen of Rawalpindi and traders of Islamabad
The businessmen of RCCI have appreciated the tax exemptions mainly the rate of advance tax on raw materials that has been lessened to two per cent. In regards to the demand for reduction of sales tax from 17 to 5 per cent has also been not considered, this has raised dissatisfaction amongst the members. So, they have asked the government to re-look into the revenue targets. Whereas the traders in Islamabad have indicated the reduced custom duties on 90 tariff lines to three per cent as supportive and has asked for grant of more incentives to increase exports and investments.(Israr Ahmad, "Twin cities business class gives mixed reaction to budget," The Nation, 13 June 2020)

The businessmen of KP express dissatisfaction over federal Budget
The traders in KP claimed that Pakistan's global positing in doing business has ranked up from 136 to 108, which was due to a rise in foreign investments. Due to pandemic, these businesses have faced challenges from bigger industry to small-scale set ups have been hit and the relief granted was insufficient. Hence the president of the business community demanded extension of relief and to reduce the sales tax to resuscitate businesses.("KP traders entirely reject financial bill," The Nation, 13 June 2020)

The Budget shows "little imagination, with little to cushion the population after IMF-enforced economic contractions" says the News Editorial.
The Rs7.13 trillion tax-free Budget, announced by Federal Minister, is being viewed as a cover-up for the Rs3.8billion budget deficit faced by the country. The revenue target has been set at Rs5 trillion, which seems impractical in the coming years of economic downturn. The editorial has brought out five significant flaws of the Budget 2020-21. First, the relief for ongoing Covid-19 has missed the special focus and has allotted only Rs70 billion as part of PSDP. Second, the taxes have been exempted overall apart from a few tech devices, but the taxes on luxury vehicles and other related goods are also regarded tax-free. Third, the budget allocation for education and health should be high to educate people mainly on health and safety measures to avoid future pandemic situations, but only Rs83 billion has been allotted for education and Rs25 billion for health sector. Fourth, large-scale manufacturing and agriculture have not improved in the past years. With the loss of exports and locust attacks, these sectors will face a long recovery process which might lead to a bigger problem of food scarcity. The government must address this with a special fiscal stimulus and revive the industries. Finally, the ministry has promised to push the GDP rate to 2.1 per cent in the next fiscal year without considering the skyrocketing foreign debts. The editorial ends by stating that balancing between deficit revenues and debt servicing will be a huge task for Pakistan in the coming years. ("Budget 2020-21," The News International, 13 June 2020)

Opposition calls the Budget as anti-Pakistan and anti-Public
Pakistan's opposition is unhappy with the Budget. PML-N and PPP called it "anti-Public and anti-Pakistan" and predicted job-cuts and mini-budgets. The PML-N, PPP and MMA members staged a noisy protest raising anti-government placards (such as "No to Privatization of Steel Mills", "Cheeni Chor, Aata Chor, Petrol Chor" meaning 'sugar thieves, flour thieves and petrol thieves' and "Dhandli-zada Hukoomat Namanzoor" meaning 'rigged government unacceptable') before the PM, who was attending the budget presentation, and later walked out of the assembly hall. They foiled PTI's strategy to black out the protest by state-funded PTV by consistently sending video clips to private news channels. In the absence of Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif, PML-N's parliamentary leader Khawaja Asif led the party. However, PML-N and PPP agreed to not press for cut motions and point out quorum till the Budget was passed. ("Minister unfazed by noisy opposition protest in NA," Dawn, 13 June 2020) 

The primary challenge
The New tax revenue target: a highly ambitious Rs4.9tr
Amid the COVID-challenges and economic lull, FBR needs a 27 per cent tax growth in the upcoming fiscal year to hit the desired target. FBR believes the existing tax infrastructure can fetch Rs200 to Rs300 billion via effective enforcement and expansion of the narrow tax base.

FBR's Chairperson Nausheen Javaid said that FBR provided Rs26.260 billion relief on three taxes – general sales, income tax and federal excise duty. "With restoration of economic activities and increased imports the FBR will be able to achieve its envisaged target," Javaid said. A major enforcement measure introduced in the Budget is ensuring FBR has real-time access to databases and information from different institutions such as FIA, provincial excise, NADRA and taxation departments. ("Govt sets highly ambitious tax revenue target of Rs4.9tr," The News International, 13 June 2020) 


"After two years of underwhelming steering of the economy, the Covid-19 crisis had presented the PTI government with an opportunity to show some vision and take over the reins of an economy that has gone from bad to the verge of collapse under its stewardship. Instead, the government has delivered another budget that showed little imagination, with little to cushion the population after IMF-enforced economic contractions"

- Editorial
The News, 13 June 2020


In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, A Padmashree and P Harini Sha.

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