Supplementary grants

ECC’s selection of the nominated departments is slightly puzzling

Editorial March 22, 2019

A supplementary budget was approved by the federal government on March 20. Notable mentions in the budget included Rs400 million for maintenance of PM’s Cessna and a package to meet expenditures of IDPs. Also approved was a raise in water and power tariffs in AJK.

In addition, a significant portion of the Rs17.5 billion supplementary grant was allocated towards different government organisations with a simultaneous freeze on Rs96 billion owed to the Civil Aviation Authority by PIA. While the capabilities of individuals in the ruling party are not doubted, there are some inexplicable gaps with regard to where the numbers are contrived from.

According to records, the Economic Coordination Committee has a habit of releasing supplemental budgets at meetings. These seem to be triage attempts rather than well-thought-out remedies to existing crises, which begs the question if the budgets are released and implemented with impact or if such supplemental budgets should be issued in the first place.

Interestingly, some of the major areas that have perpetually faced emergencies such as health and education are less talked about at these supplemental budget meetings. For example, with the newest supplemental budget, Rs156.3 million for Ministry of Health Services was set aside but there was no mention of education.

On the other hand, an allocation of budget was made towards the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development.

With the supplemental budget, it remains hazy as to why certain allotments were made. While there are no doubts as to the financial needs of many government departments, the ECC’s selection of the nominated departments is slightly puzzling.

Its tendency to issue supplemental budgets every couple of months has led the finance department to develop a reputation as one of lacking fiscal discipline. While we would not say the government has poor spending habits, we are eager to see with time what fruit these supplemental budgets will bear.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2019.

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