July issue 2009
Poor Man’s Budget?
The government has announced a number of schemes and projects to provide relief to the common man, particularly the poor.
Under its various poverty alleviation strategies, the government said it intends to upgrade the poor beneficiaries to the level of self-sufficiency by various means, including transition to Conditional Cash Transfers, training and employment of one person per household, and the provision of work through small public works under social mobilisation programme initiatives. The latter programme is based on the concept of small development schemes for the construction of paved streets and water and sanitation facilities at the local level with the help of community contribution.
The government announced a 15% increase in salaries and pensions of government employees, including armed forces personnel. But on protest from the clerks, the government increased the raise from 15% to 20% for Grade 1-16 employees and pensioners who had retired 10 years ago or earlier.
Allocations for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) have been increased to Rs 70 billion from the previous year’s allocation of Rs 34 billion. The government plans to conduct the national census in 16 districts of Pakistan as a pilot to benchmark incomes for providing support under the BISP. This would be extended to the entire country within the calendar year.
To make the BISP transparent and effective, Benazir Income Support cards will be introduced. Hina Rabbani Khar said the government also plans to bring in legislation during the next financial year for creating a social security protection programme for the haris (peasants). The government wants to mainstream the marginalised haris and provide them with the social protection available to other labourers in the country.
The government also plans to initiate the ‘Poverty Reduction through Small Holders Livestock and Dairy Development’ worth Rs 3,539.13 million, from which an amount of Rs 400 million will be allocated in 2009-10.
An increase in the allowance of armed forces deployed on the western front equal to one month’s initial basic pay has been announced with effect from July 1, 2009, as announced by the president in his address to the nation. For the remaining armed forces personnel, allowance equal to one month’s initial basic pay will be admissible from January 1, 2010, in line with the presidential announcement; in the interim period, an ad hoc relief allowance of 20% of pay will be allowed.
For poverty alleviation, the government has promised to provide microfinance loans to the youth. The government has set the target to increase outreach of the microfinance services from two million to three million borrowers in fiscal year 2009-10.
Different programmes for youth motivation, character-building, awareness and integration, and the establishment of youth activity centres will be undertaken under the National Youth Policy. About 30,000 educated postgraduates will be offered internships under the National Internship Programme for which the government has allocated Rs 3.6 billion in the budget. A Mobile Youth Computer Literacy and Awareness Programme has been started through Mobile Computer Vans to educate/train the youth of rural areas.
About 15,000 volunteers from all walks of life have been registered for community development activities and disaster management. An amount of Rs 450 million has been allocated for cultural development — an increase of Rs 186 million over the previous year’s allocation.
This article appeared as a sidebar in Budgeting in Times of Turmoil.
Related story: Working Man’s Burden.