Pakistan Muslim League-N has ruled out the possibility of delaying budget for four months as it vowed to unveil next year’s budget in the second week of June and get it passed from the National Assembly before the start of the new financial year.
Talking to The Express Tribune, senior leader of PML-N Sartaj Aziz said that in spite of time constraints the budget for fiscal year 2013-14 can still be presented in between June 10 and 12. He added that after the new cabinet is formed the party’s nominee for the finance minister slot Ishaq Dar will have around two weeks to set his priorities.
Elaborating the party’s plan of action Aziz stated that the expenditures part of the budget was almost already complete while the taxation measures were to be decided over the course of a few weeks. He said the party would not face many problems in presenting the budget on time.
According to political analysts, if desired the president can summon the NA session by May 26 which would assist the PML-N to form the government at the earliest, giving it more time to plan the budget. However, if the president wishes to exploit maximum 21 days limit that the constitution sets to call a session of new assembly, the PML-N will form the government by June 3 or 4.
According to clause 85 of the constitution, the NA shall have powers to make any grant in advance in respect to the estimated expenditures for a part of any financial year, not exceeding four months.
Aziz, who is expected to be Adviser on Economy and Foreign Affairs to the premier, said that the party was not considering any proposal to delay the budget for four months. “Extending the current budget further for four months will mean that the wasteful expenditures will continue,” he said.
He added that the parliament would need 15 days to pass the budget and that time will be given. “The PML-N enjoys a comfortable majority in the National Assembly therefore the party will not face difficulty in getting the budget through,” he explained.
The PPP-dominated Senate will have only recommendatory powers in case of Finance Bill where the decisive powers rest with NA. However, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance can take up to 14 days to give recommendations on the proposed budget after it is presented in the NA.
After the Senate sends out its recommendations, at least three days will be required for the NA to pass each demand for grant and budget will have to be approved by June 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.
Sources reveal that as a backup the finance ministry is working on a proposal to fast-track the process of budget approvals from the agencies concerned before its presentation to the parliament. They added that there was a possibility that meeting of Annual Plan Coordination Committee would not be called. The APCC finalizes the development and current budgets and macroeconomic targets on recommendations of the Priorities Committee for approval of the NEC. The recommendations of the priorities committee may directly be presented to the NEC.
There will also be a need to reconstitute the NEC and a summary for the purpose will be put for approval of the prime minister immediately after his oath-taking. However, the sources added that Sindh may take time to nominate its members which may delay the NEC constitution for a couple of days, given the fact that PPP is still the ruling party in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2013.