Once upon a time the ‘Budget’ used to be a harbinger of ‘good news and change’ for people but now it is just another ‘ordeal’ they wait for not with a hope but with increasing anxiety of further hardships.
Budget presentation has become a routine affair, as an annual exercise to fulfil legal requirement that common people take as “a game of figures and jugglery of words”.
Since long, hardly any budget has taken the common people in to consideration, and no meaningful relief has been provided to them and key sectors of the economy. Levy of new taxes, increase in existing taxes, duties and surcharges, rise in gas and petrol prices, hike in utilities and essential kitchen items are the key features of all successive budgets. But that has already happened, as in last couple of months, prices of all essential items have gone up manifold, indicating a jagged rise in inflation, and further decline in the purchasing power of the people. Things have gone from bad to worse, how worse could it further get!
Now what is budget to a common housewife? The question from this correspondent was received with annoyance, anger, anxiety and hopelessness by many, as if the question touched a sore spot! Some described the budget as a ploy to please the ‘fat elites to make them fatter’, while some claimed it as “a game plan for the big industrialists, feudal lords and money-minting mafia”.
“We don’t have time to think of the ‘Budget’ they are going to present in the Assembly as we have enough worries on our minds about day to day living,” says Mrs Ayub, a housewife trying to somehow adjust her family budget to make ends meet, from food to education of her children.
“What can a common man hope for in any budget but more bills, price hike and more economic pressure”, lamented a housewife. “My husband earns Rs6,000 per month. We have three school-going kids, while the eldest one is going to college. With the present inflation and price hike, how can we manage to feed and educate our children and pay the rent and utility bills too?”
“Let the Finance Minister prepare a monthly budget of a common man earning from four to five thousand per month, let him live the way we live, may be then he would realise what is budget for a common man”, another housewife cried out in anguish. “Every June we used to be worried about the coming onslaught that they call budget. But now already everything has gone sky high so many times this year, so why worry? How could anything be worse than buying the simple ‘bengan’(brinjal)or ‘(lady’s finger) for Rs60 per kg in an agricultural country? People are already committing suicide, so what more do you want to hear?”
The budget never brings relief, but more burdens,” an educated housewife Samina said. She is trying to share the load of her family by coaching small children, but even then, it’s a nightmare for her to make both ends meet. “We only try to manage, while the financial masters build new obstacles for us. If they can’t make it easier for us, they should stop making so much hue and cry about helping the poor through the budget.
“Don’t ask us how we are coping. We are worried sick,” Aliya and Ismat, both neighbours in one of the ‘normal middle class sector’ of the capital city. They talked about rise in house rents, prices of items of basic use, utilities and almost everything skyrocketing under the very nose of the government, while common people get their share of yet more ‘promises’ from people sitting in their palaces. “Their kids go to good schools in their big cars, some study abroad, but the way things are going, pretty soon we won’t be able to provide education to our children as school fees and prices of books are also shooting up” both housewives said in anger and frustration.
Preparing and presenting the budget just as a drill is not the answer anymore, said a housewife of the ‘upper class’ society. Mrs Shah is also worried but with a difference. She wonders how her domestic servants manage their lives? She said, if the middle class is managing somehow, then what about these poor ones? How can they survive with the current price hike and inflation? Things are going from bad to worse. Every new government raises hue and cry about the empty exchequer (khali khazana) but no one ever tries to check where and who went wrong!
Mrs Shah remembers when a government was toppled only because sugar price had raised by 50 paisa per kilogram. ‘Those were truly egalitarian days, which now sounds like a fairy tale to our children’ she lamented. The upper class housewife thinks that inflation and price hike is the main cause of increasing rates of crime and corruption. About the coming budget, she has more apprehension. “It is not only the poor or common people who suffer. We have our worries too! The ever rising fuel and energy prices and the increase in utility bills affect everyone,” she said. As for the coming budget, she thinks, they should provide some relief to the common man to make their living easier.
Courtesy: The News, 21/5/2008