THE budget has been presented for 2010-11. And the Finance Minister has held his press conference. But when the dust has settled, what has been the result of the budget? The people of Pakistan, in whose name the budget will be enforced, after it is duly passed by their representatives in the National Assembly, have experienced no relief, nor do they see any coming in the future. The Finance Minister may have had a difficult assignment, but the difficulties of the USA's War on Terror or the energy shortage were not created by the government itself, nor, perhaps more importantly, the people of Pakistan. The first is a problem because of the USA, and the second because the IMF has imposed conditionalities which Dr Sheikh, who has worked for its sister organization, the World Bank, seems only too glad to spout as an excuse for imposing new taxes. The Value Added Tax (VAT) was not part of the budget, but as Dr Sheikh did not give enough clarification about it, this remained a major worry for people, as well as a major source of criticism of the budget. The budget was also criticized on other grounds. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry pointed out that the budget did not do anything for the revival of economic activity. It has also been pointed out that the increase in the excise duty on natural gas would not only have a negative impact on the cost of production, but the end of the zero-rated regime would also have a harmful effect on exports. It was also noted that there was no relief offered to the agriculture sector, even though it had been hit hard by the water and energy shortages. The LCCI also was critical of the budget because it had not made enough provision for water and power projects. The Karachi Chamber members gave Dr Sheikh high marks for presentation, but were worried about the VAT question. At the same time, the KCCI members also appreciated the budget's measures giving relief to government servants in the form of a pay raise. However, despite the excellence of the presentation, there was a lack of comprehension of how the government would take these steps without raising taxes. The government should rethink the VAT. Even though it was not announced in the budget, it provided the bulk of the criticism it faced for the budget. The postponement to October is insufficient; the government's foreign lenders must be told that it simply cannot be done. The government entered the budgeting process having made a lot of promises to the IMF and none to the people of Pakistan; it must now change those priorities, and use the reaction from the people to tell the IMF where to get off.