FOR inexplicable reasons, our nation quite literally celebrates the month of June as the ‘season of the budget’. Every individual has an opinion on it, or at least on some aspect of it. We take the budget speech as an expression of some kind of vision for the country.

A budget-making exercise at best is an estimation of the quantum of revenue-generation a country would achieve and its subsequent application as cost / expenditure related to various sectors of the economy. This document is only a minuscule aspect of the grand economic vision a country, or even an organisation, must necessarily have.

We look at this every year as some sort of a scripture that would either ensure the showering of ‘manna and quails’ or would lead us to the doomsday. Factually, it cannot in the short term offer either of these possibilities.

A budget is the basic balancing act between revenue and expenditure, where means are identified to bridge any gap between the two.

During the ‘budget season’, all pressure groups, trade associations, cartelised groups and the various chambers of commerce and industry ‘voluntarily’ submit to the government, by way of advertisements or even detailed papers, their recommendations on what the budget for the next year should look like. Mostly, the recommendations are self-serving, but that goes without saying.

Living in the same society, I would like to represent the ‘silent pressure group’ and recommend something of interest to me and most of our countrymen. The government may kindly allow in the coming budget the import of books, journals and magazines without any tariff or duties.

Please include newsprint paper too, because, with each passing day, the number of pages and the size thereof, of the various dailies are shrinking, just as much as there is this perennial shrinking taking place in our levels of tolerance due to lack of reading habits.

People, especially young professionals, cannot buy books, because they have literally become a choice between having them or the school tuition fees.

Look at the newspapers across the border, the number of pages there exceed 30 sheets. Even the dailies in the Gulf region, where the readership is poorer, have substantial number of pages.

We need to promote the habit of reading books. For this we need to make the habit inexpensive. This is the only seductive way to bring the youth back to developing the reading habit.

While I don’t expect the incumbents to personally take notice of this recommendation, I do hope that someone in the two most relevant offices — those of the prime minister and the finance minister – would care to read this plea and accordingly advise the Q Block!

Sirajuddin Aziz
Karachi

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2021

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