Punjab govt unlikely to present budget | Pakistan Today

Punjab govt unlikely to present budget

  • Other provinces also reportedly reconsidering decisions to announce budgets

LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided not to present the budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2018-19 keeping in view its weak legal standing in this regard, informed sources told Pakistan Today on Thursday

“Legal experts have advised the Punjab government not to present the budget as it does not have locus standi to do so. It’s always the prerogative of the new government to make its own budget. Although the provincial government has finalised the budget, it has decided not to proceed with it,” a senior official of the Punjab Finance Department told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity.

Moreover, experts believe that presenting the budget so close to the expiry of government’s tenure is unconstitutional.

“It is likely that the other three provinces will also decide against presenting their respective budgets,” the source added, citing constitutional bars in this regard.

It is pertinent to mention here that Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had on Monday announced that his government will introduce the budget for the whole year, but the authentication for utilisation of development funds would be made only for four months.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has also announced that it would be presenting the budget in May, taking a U-turn on it’s earlier decision to not present an “unconstitutional budget”.

On the other hand, former federal finance minister Ishaq Dar has said that if he had been the minister, he would have presented the budget for only two months.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – which is also the ruling party in Punjab – is all set to announce federal budget on Friday, in an apparent bid to appease the masses to animate the chances of winning the upcoming general elections.

According to reports, opposition parties in the National Assembly have made it clear that their support for the upcoming budget would be contingent upon acceptance of their nominee for the caretaker prime minister. 

With the fear of large-scale defections facing the party, PML-N appears to be in a fix as about 70 per cent lawmakers of the party have decided to quietly oppose the budget given their differences with the leadership.

Therefore getting the budget passed, which will be debated for a few weeks once it is presented, will be a daunting task for the ruling party.

According to experts, the budget – federal or provincial – should only be prepared for the next four months to allow the present government and the interim set up meet essential expenses related to the current expenditure and ongoing projects. The insistence to present a budget for the next fiscal year also has led to questions regarding the ruling party’s motives.

Apprehensions have been expressed that the PML-N wants to get approval for supplementary grants that may include expenditures of a political nature like further disbursements to its parliamentarians for development work in their constituencies as a pre-poll rigging measure. There being wide divergences over developmental priorities between political parties, the budget for the next financial year could create liabilities for the next government which would be unjustified. 

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