PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has come up with a novel idea to combine the mundane, but essential, task of creating a budget with the region’s most ancient democratic tradition: pre-budget jirgas.
In an effort to shore up the government’s popularity through what is likely to be the last budget before the next general election, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Humayun Khan has been addressing pre-budget jirgas in different parts of the province to get elected officials and other stakeholders involved in the budget-drafting process.
Humayun has already held such jirgas in Mardan and Abbottabad and on Thursday addressed a similar gathering in Peshawar at the Press Club, a meeting sponsored by the British government’s Department for International Development.
“We will give serious considerations to proposals put forward by all stakeholders, including assembly members and provincial ministers,” said the finance minister. “In the next budget, education and health will be on the priority list.”
The parliamentary system envisioned in Pakistan’s constitution grants considerable authority to the finance minister and the civil service to draft the budget, leaving little room for any debate or input from anyone else in the legislature, let alone anyone outside government. The pre-budget jirgas seem to be an informal means of trying to circumvent that institutional concentration of financial authority.
In a province wracked by a Taliban insurgency, the minister was keen to highlight his government’s track record in on education and employment. “The Awami National Party-led coalition government has established eight universities and cadet colleges in Mardan, Buner, Swabi, Chitral and other areas. We started the Bacha Khan Khapal Rozgar Scheme to eradicate unemployment in the province and it is being run without political interference,” he said.
“Our financial resources are limited. That is why funds cannot be provided to every project. But even so, our main priority is developmental projects and we are trying our level best to increase the size of the Annual Development Program as much as possible,” he said.
The jirga was attended by Speaker Kiramtualla Charmati, Aqil Shah, Ayub Shari, Haji Nemroze, Wajid Ali, Arshad Abdullah, Abdul Akbar Khan and others.