It is condemnable that the biggest talking point around the 2016-2017 budget is not any substantial point of policy in the budget but the supposed impropriety of the Prime Minister presiding over the budgetary meetings in the National Economic Council (NEC) and the federal cabinet through a video link. Of course, this is not unprecedented; the media always prioritises the flashy, polarising elements of any story rather than the grimy contents of it – we all remember what Ayyan Ali wore to her hearing but not the name of the investigator who was shot for arresting her. The media is a slave to ratings, but Pakistani politicians should know better.

In an age when the vast bulk of business dealings – and even government interaction – is done over the internet, questioning the legality of a meeting presided through a video link amounts to petty disruption and betrays and archaic mode of thinking that is fast becoming obsolete. The budget isn’t so unremarkable that we have to go fishing for new issues; in fact there are hosts of exigent crises that require immediate attention.

The NEC meeting slashed the current year’s development budget by Rs113 billion to Rs1.41 trillion from Rs1.514 trillion to honour a commitment made with the International Monetary Fund – a development that has been accepted quite willingly by the lawmakers present. The past several budgets have seen a steady increase in the development budget, it must be questioned whether slashing the budget is wise in such a crucial period in the country’s economic development.

This is especially problematic when the development budget has been slashed disproportionately. In its Rs800 billion public sector development programme (PSDP) for the next financial year, the federal government has proposed a mere Rs12.05bn allocation for Sindh’s 25 new and ongoing schemes. This measly sum has justifiably got the Sindh Chief Minister angry, and the Federal Finance Minister’s snub at the NEC meeting will only fan the flames. Karachi alone requires more than Rs 2 billion in the next fiscal year, the rest of Sindh is another matter; this illogical allocation must be explained and corrected.

Another crucial issue, the increase in the salary of government servants, has been left to the discretion of the Finance Minister for reasons unknown. The increase is necessary and the uncertainty over it must be ended.

Finally, as sure as the sun sets in the west, each fiscal year sees an increase in the military’s budget – which has risen by 50% in the last 7 years. Along with a regular increase in budget allocation the military has asked for a one off grant of Rs100 billion for ‘capacity building’ despite the fact that major military operations have winded down. Last year’s one of allocation was promised to be the last, yet here we stand.