The Budget Priorities Committee has started deliberations on how best to allocate proposed Rs744 billion to various government agencies for current and development spending next fiscal year amid increasing pressure from ministries to get a maximum share in the limited pie.
The first meeting of the Priorities Committee held on Monday marked the formal beginning of the budget-making process for 2013-14 that will culminate with the approval of fiscal policy framework by the next parliament in June this year.
The amount does not include the Rs627 billion defence budget, though officials of the Ministry of Finance say this part of the budget will also come up for discussion on April 16.
The committee, comprising federal secretaries of finance, planning and economic affairs, will finalise budget proposals for both current and development spending by various government agencies, except the defence budget.
It will examine and try to strike a balance between the ambitions of 68 government departments and agencies and the available envelope of Rs744 billion, according to officials of the finance ministry.
The proposed amount is 20% higher than this year’s current and development budget of Rs621 billion. It is also higher than the projected inflation rate of 9% for the next year.
A major increase is on account of development spending that is likely to be increased by 25% while current spending is expected to go up by 12%. Usually, slight changes are made in the proposed and final allocations for the departments and ministries.
For the current fiscal year 2012-13, the previous National Assembly had approved a budget of Rs621 billion – Rs261 billion for current expenditure and Rs350 billion for development spending. Parliament also approved the Rs350 billion development budget.
However, the finance ministry gave Rs10 billion in additional grant to facilitate former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in his spending spree in his constituency NA-51 that eventually became a reason for rejection of his nomination papers for May 11 elections.
Apart from Rs744 billion in current and development spending, roughly a trillion rupees will go to the defence budget (which is more than the allocated amount) and another Rs1.1 trillion will be earmarked for interest payments. The Rs744-billion amount is probably the only chunk of the proposed budget of Rs3.5 trillion for 2013-14 that will be discussed threadbare before its presentation at the highest levels.
“The Priorities Committee is the only forum where current, development and foreign loan components of the budget are discussed in an effort to make best use of limited resources,” said Rana Assad Amin, spokesman for the finance ministry.
The committee will propose current budgets out of Rs294 billion, which is Rs33 billion or 12.6% higher than the outgoing year’s current budget, according to the finance ministry’s documents. For development spending, the proposed ceiling is Rs450 billion, higher by 25% or Rs90 billion over this year’s budget.
On Monday, the committee discussed the budget for the ministries of commerce, communications, postal services, ports and shipping, privatisation, textile industry, overseas Pakistanis and the National Highway Authority.
The proposed budget for the Ministry of Railways is Rs62 billion including Rs32 billion for current spending and Rs30 billion for development spending. Current spending is Rs9.2 billion or 40% higher while the development budget is Rs7.1 billion or 31% higher.
For NHA, a Rs65-billion development budget has been proposed, up Rs14.3 billion or 28.2% over this year’s budget. The current budget for the Ministry of Communications is Rs6.7 billion, an increase of almost 10%.
The commerce ministry’s current budget remains stagnant at the current year’s level at Rs5.1 billion. But its development budget ceiling is Rs780 million, which is 23.5% higher than this year’s budget.
The privatisation ministry that failed to perform any function this year will get Rs121 million next year against Rs109 million this year. The Ministry of Textile Industry will receive Rs2.1 billion for current spending next year, 5% higher than this year.
Postal services will get Rs61.5 million and the overseas ministry will get Rs537.2 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2013.
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