Defence Budget: Pakistan’s misplaced priorities

The budget document shows that the defence outlay for 2020-21 would be Pakistani Rs 1,289 billion as compared to Pakistani Rs 1,152 billion earmarked for the ongoing fiscal year. A closer look at the budget details revealed that Rs 1,289 billion figure does not include Pakistani Rs 369 billion allocated for pensions of retired military personnel and Pakistani Rs 324 billion for the armed forces development programme.

Islamabad has told a visiting team of a UNSC monitoring committee that it had been unable to act against numerous individuals listed in its sanctions list because the UN panel had given “insufficient information”.(PTI)
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NEW DELHI: The Imran Khan government’s proposed 11.9 per cent increase in the country’s defence budget is yet again a grim reminder that Islamabad’s priorities are misplaced while its economy tanks and pandemic gets out of control.

The budget document shows that the defence outlay for 2020-21 would be Pakistani Rs 1,289 billion as compared to Pakistani Rs 1,152 billion earmarked for the ongoing fiscal year.

A closer look at the budget details revealed that Rs 1,289 billion figure does not include Pakistani Rs 369 billion allocated for pensions of retired military personnel and Pakistani Rs 324 billion for the armed forces development programme.

“The defence budget allocation shows roughly 12 per cent increase over last year’s figures. However, this is deceptive because invariably there is an increase midway and a lot of military expenditure is hidden under different heads. These include pensions, major acquisitions and the nuclear programme,” Tilak Devasher, member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and author of several books on Pakistan told ET.

“As compared with the budgeted Rs 1.29 trillion defence expenditure, the size of the federal developmental budget is only Rs 650 billion. This shows the priorities of the government and the dominance of the military,” Devasher noted.

Pakistan’s own latest Economic Survey has revealed that the country is bracing towards a massive and widespread joblessness due to the lockdowns and restrictions, required to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20 has estimated a staggering number of 1.4 million to 18.53 million people going jobless in the country. The survey maintains that the ongoing restrictions and lockdowns due to coronavirus may see at least 2.2 per cent of the country”s employed workforce going jobless, while in case of a lockdown under limited restrictions, the numbers of joblessness in the country would hover around 1.4 million.

In monetary terms, the overall job loss would interpret into at least PKR 23.6 billion. And in case of a moderate lockdown, the job loss may come up to at least PKR 12.3 million, while at least 20 per cent of the labour category would suffer a wage loss of at least PKR 209.6 million.
On the other hand, a complete lockdown would interpret to push at least 18.53 million people, which is about 30 per cent of the labour force to unemployment, which job losses worth at least PKR 315 billion.

There are reports that the Pakistan government has imposed at least PKR 200 billion worth of additional taxes, aimed at achieving PKR 4,963 trillion target.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, while presenting the budget on Friday, claimed that no new taxes have been imposed. However, according to the Finance Bill 2020, PKR 100,000 to PKR 200,000 luxury tax on land with covered area of over 1,000 sq, yards residential homes has been introduced while PKR 25 per square foot to PKR 80 per square foot on farm houses has been introduced.