Sunday, June 21, 2009
By Dr Farrukh Saleem
Budget 2009-10 has allocated Rs3 million a day, every single day of the year, for Prime Minister Gilani's foreign tours. That's a wholesome Rs100 million a month or Rs1.2 billion a year. If our prime minister somehow manages to restrain himself from leaving the geographical boundaries of Pakistan the same allocation could mean Rs500 for each and every IDP, every man, woman and child, sick and old. For Rs.1.2 billion, the Utility Stores Corporation can distribute 25 million kilograms of Dal Chana among the 400,000 IDP families so that each family gets 60 kilograms of Dal Chana.
Foreign tours or IDPs? Imagine; if our prime minister forgoes his foreign excursions just for a month the Rs100 million saved that month can go to feed and cloth at least 300,000 IDPs. This is what Rs100 million could buy: 500,000 kilograms of rice plus 100,000 kilograms of sugar, 250,000 kilograms of Dal Masoor, 50,000 kilograms of tea, 25,000 kilograms of red chilli powder, 50,000 kilograms of ghee and 250,000 kilograms of soap. Do you know how much Rs1.2 billion would buy? Six million kilograms of rice plus 1.2 million kilograms of sugar, three million kilograms of Dal Masoor, 600,000 kilograms of tea, 300,000 kilograms of red chilli powder, 600,000 kilograms of ghee and three million kilograms of soap. Do you know how many IDPs can live on that and for how long? Our entire pool of IDPs can live on that for at least two full weeks.
This year, the presidential allocation under the head of budget for "staff, household and allowances" stands at Rs390 million. Imagine; if our president forgoes his budget for "staff, household and allowances" just for a month the Rs30 million saved that month could go to feed and cloth at least 90,000 IDPs. This is what Rs30 million could buy: 150,000 kilograms of rice plus 30,000 kilograms of sugar, 75,000 kilograms of Dal Masoor, 15,000 kilograms of tea, 7,000 kilograms of red chilli powder, 15,000 kilograms of ghee and 75,000 kilograms of soap. Do you know how much Rs390 million would buy? Two million kilograms of rice plus 400,000 kilograms of sugar, one million kilograms of Dal Masoor, 200,000 kilograms of tea, 100,000 kilograms of red chilli powder, 200,000 kilograms of ghee and one million kilograms of soap. Do you know how many IDPs can live on that and for how long? Our entire pool of IDPs can live on that for five full days (all prices as quoted by the Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan).
Imagine; budget 2009-10 has allocated Rs1 million a day for every day of the year under the head of budget for the president's "staff, household and allowances". For the record, three out of four Pakistanis make Rs160 or less a day. Amazingly, President Zardari took out a mere Rs230 million from the public kitty for his foreign junkets. And, that translates to around Rs20 million a month or a paltry Rs600,000 a day.
On an average day some 200 babies are born to IDP families, around 6,000 babies a month. How about prenatal care, fetal assessment and obstetrics? If our president and our prime minister forgo their foreign travels just for a day the savings would be enough to build, maintain and sustain an outpatient clinic, a primary health care centre plus diagnostic equipment. Imagine; how many hospitals can be built if our leaders forgo their foreign travels for one full year.
There must be some 1.5 million school-age IDPs. How about primary and secondary schools? How about vocational schools? If our president and our prime minster forgo their foreign travels just for a month imagine the number of schools that can be built, teachers hired and children taught?
Look at our priorities: NWFP allocates Rs2 billion for all our IDPs. Islamabad allocates Rs1.2 billion for prime minister's foreign travels, Rs38 million for Islamabad's law courts, Rs2.8 billion for Frontier Constabulary and Rs504 million for Pakistan Coast Guards.
Imagine; budget 2009-10 has current expenditures that actually exceed net government revenue. All this travelling around the globe is in essence on money borrowed in the name of the Islamic Republic. Is this addiction, obsession, compulsion, psychological dependence or just a sweet tooth? Where are our democratically elected MNAs? Hasn't anyone heard of a 'Balanced Budget Amendment' (under which our budget drafters would be under legal obligation to balance all projected revenues and expenditures)?