PILDAT session discusses effective budget dealing ways | Pakistan Today

PILDAT session discusses effective budget dealing ways

PILDAT held a session on Monday to discuss effective participation of members of the provincial assembly (MPA) in the budget debate. Punjab Assembly (PA) Speaker Rana Iqbal agreed to the proposal that a subject-wise groups of MPAs should participate in the budget debate. He was presiding over the briefing session scheduled ahead of start of the budget debate in the PA. Responding to a suggestion by former Punjab finance minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, he said that instead of every MPA speaking on the same issues, groups of 10 MPAs should collaborate and prepare their budget analysis on one or another topic and discuss it afterwards. In this way, there would be no repetition and all issues would be discussed fairly.
The speaker said that in order to be self-reliant, there was a need to enlarge the tax base in Pakistan. He urged MPAs to be in the forefront of a drive to pay more taxes. Iqbal highlighted that the PA was the first provincial legislature to have amended its Rules of Procedure to institutionalise the pre-budget debate. Other MPAs stressed upon the need for themselves to more effectively scrutinise the budget and while doing so, give suggestions on policy priorities instead of just focusing on the budget. MPAs also demanded a greater role for standing committees in reviewing the budget and demands for grants while Daily Pakistan Chief Editor Mujibur Rehman Shami highlighted that reforms in the provincial budget process need to emulate the Indian model where parliamentary committees review the budget for their departments and ministries and budget duration runs into months.
Financial analyst Noman Ishtiaq analysed the provincial budget and gave a presentation highlighting the budget. He said that there are two major aspects of the budget including the development budget and the recurrent budget. He urged MPAs to know the policy behind the budget to effectively contribute in the budget session. Presenting the economic atmosphere in which the budget is prepared, he said that the GDP had decreased from 5.8 percent in 2005 to 2.4 percent in 2010. Inflation had increased in double digits from 7.9 percent in 2005 to 15.5 percent in 2010 and investment in terms of GDP had fallen from 22.14 percent in 2005 to 13.4 percent in 2010.
He specified that the federal government needed provincial help to minimise the country’s fiscal deficit and said that the federal and provincial governments lack an understanding of their respective roles after passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment and the NFC Award and there was a need for a consensus on this through the Council of Common Interests.
Kaira appreciated the timing of the session and said that this would help MPAs prepare to debate on the budget. He said that for the first time, the opposition in the PA presented a shadow budget. The Punjab government should have a multi-year strategy while focusing on one particular year, Kaira said. He was critical of the current budget citing that the revenue targets have been reduced in spite of inclusion of new taxes. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader said that supplementary grants should be minimised and the ADP monitoring should be online so that MPAs could keep them abreast with the flow of the budget. He said that only MPAs could assert themselves to play a more active role in influencing the budget.
Shami said that the budget session was now of lesser importance because of the lack of substance in the legislators’ speeches. “The budget session should be telecast live so that the people know what is actually included in the budget without waiting for the newspaper the next day,” he said. “Newspapers too should be asked to devote at least one page each for budget debates in the assembly. Shami said that the budget speech should not be limited to numbers but should include every detail related to the budget that affects the people’s lives. The veteran journalist believed that a legislator could contribute effectively within 10 minutes during the budget session. He advised legislators to learn from the implementation of the last budget and contribute accordingly in the current session.
PILDAT prepared and presented two papers at the briefing session for benefit of MPAs including the Main Contours of Punjab Budget 2011-2012 and a consolidated report on the pre-budget session in the PA.

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