Dates for Budget 2004-2005: Keeping the public in suspense
By Tanvir Zahid
LAHORE: Somehow, dates for all economic-related activities pertaining to the formulation and presentation of the federal budget for financial year 2004-2005 have fluctuated, been revised and changed more than once during the last couple of weeks.
The date for the presentation of the federal budget by Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz in the National Assembly (NA) has yet not been finalised.
The Annual Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) meeting was scheduled for May 21 and then was held on May 22 and no reason was given for the change.
The country’s highest economic body, the National Economic Council (NEC), was initially scheduled to meet in Islamabad on June 3 with Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali in chair. The date was moved back to May 31 and the NEC finally met in Islamabad on Tuesday to consider and approve the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for the next financial year.
The agenda and working paper for the NEC meeting could not be finalised in time or dispatched to the concerned quarters of the provincial governments for their views on the new PSDP, sectoral and project allocations.
The NEC agenda and working paper were received at the Punjab Civil Secretariat in Lahore on Sunday (May 30) by fax only after repeated requests were made.
The officials concerned left Lahore on Monday with just one copy of the NEC working paper with them to attend the pre-NEC deliberation held in Islamabad on Monday afternoon.
The NEC meeting was held in Islamabad on Monday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Jamali in which provincial chief ministers also participated.
Likewise, the presentation of the federal budget in the National Assembly was initially planned for June 12 and then was advanced to June 5.
But now since all matters have not yet been finalised, and preparations have not been completed, the date for the announcement of the new budget has again been put off until June 12. The National Assembly will require at least more than two weeks to discuss, debate and approve the budget before the midnight of June 30 when the new financial year will commence on July 1.
Sources said that the fluctuation in dates have been caused by the delay in the finalisation of the recommendations of the National Finance Commission (NFC) for the distribution of resources out of the divisible pool. “Only the notification of the sixth NFC Award by the president or another year’s extension in the fifth NFC Award will allow economic managers to finalise budget figures,” the sources said.