Aimed at complementing the budget making process with the expert opinion, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) and Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) jointly organized Pre-Budget Seminar on May 26, 2016 at PIPS main Campus Islamabad. The event was attended by 130 participants from Parliament of Pakistan, associations, media and academics. Honorable MNA, Siraj Muhammad Khan, Honorable Senator Usman Khan Kakar, and Senator Saeed-Ul-Hassan represented the Parliament of Pakistan while participating associations included: Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce, Rawalpindi Chamber of small Trader and small Industry, All Pakistan marble Industries, Pakistan steel pipe line Association, Pakistan sugar mill Associations, All Pakistan PVC Association, All Pakistan Customs Associations, Constructors Association of Pakistan, All Pakistan Textile Processing Association, Pakistan canvas and tents manufacturers, Pakistan flour mill Association, Pakistan Pharmaceutical manufacturers, All Pakistan oil tanker association, Pakistan solar Association, Pakistan canvas and tents Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Hajj organizers Association, Pakistan Agriculture & Dairy Farmers Association, Seed association of Pakistan, and Women Chamber of Commerce Lahore. Academic circles from Quaid-i-Azam University, PIDE and NUST joined the event. As per PIPS prestigious tradition, the event began with the recitation of the Holy Quran. Then, highlighting the potential of such activities in creating linkage between the parliament and people at large and the importance of gaining input from multiple stakeholders, the incumbent Executive Director PIPS, Mr. Zafarullah Khan presented the welcome remarks.
In capacity as the session-one Chair, Honorable MNA Siraj Muhammad Khan, Chairperson, NA Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce, made it explicit that people’s aspirations should definitely be reflected in the upcoming budget. Proposing initiatives for the Budget to uplift Pakistan’s Economy, Mr. Sakib Sherani, Former Principal Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, deliberated on “Federal Budget 2016-17: Towards Framework for Growth.” He laid his view of the macro-economic context, and highlighted the policy framework approach. He said that economy is operating far below potential, output has dropped significantly in the last 20 to 25 years. Lamenting the challenges facing the tax system in Pakistan, the seasoned professional underscored that Pakistan has got just 0.24% taxpayers in relation to its population. Moreover, out of the total 172 countries, our Human Development Index rests at 147, primarily owing to minimal importance we give to health and education in our budget. He also emphasized the need for institutional reform in addition to making improvements in our fiscal and tax policy.
Dr. Waseem Shahid Malik, Assistant Professor Quaid-i-Azam University, presented “Key economic challenges of Pakistan: Economy and the Way Forward.” Critically looking at various policy parameters he opined that we don’t have long term policy to control inflation, even we don’t have long term inflation target. Among the key economic challenges he listed: low and volatile GDP growth, volatile inflation rate, low private investment to GDP ratio, challenges regrading fiscal management, composition and high cost of debt, and increasing trade deficit. Dr. Safdar Sohail, CPEC Centre of Excellence, speaking on “China-Pakistan Development Partnership under CPEC Long-term Plan 2016-2030, put emphasis on the institutional reform in order for the economy to realize the potential vested in this mega-project often termed as Pakistan-China Economic Corridor.
Honorable Senator Usman Khan Kakar chaired the second session of the seminar. In lieu of the existing disparities among various regions in Pakistan he underscored the need to carefully carryout the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, so that the possible divisions could be avoided in the country. Dr. Idrees Khawaja, Joint Director PIDE, while speaking at the event was critical of the role and capacity of FBR. He questioned the personnel capacity of FBR in terms of the academic background as well as the kind of knowledge the officers working over there possess. As a way forward he suggested delinking of FBR from Civil Service.
The Executive Director PRIME Institute, Mr. Ali Salman suggested moving away from complex and progressive taxes towards flat, low-rate, broad and predictable taxes. Whereas, Vice Chancellor, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Dr. Asad Zaman suggested a paradigm shift to increase the efficiency of the budget making process and underscored the need to move away from concepts such as exports, revenue targets towards the welfare and capacity building of the people. Professor Dr. Aliya, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, highlighted the minimal attention education and health sector receive in the annual budget in Pakistan. And within this small share, priority is awarded more to tertiary education sector, while the preventive healthcare gets ignored. A highly interactive Q&A session followed the individual presentations. Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director Research and IT conducted the 5th Annual Pre Budget Seminar and an absorbing Q and A session. The Seminar was an effort of the PIPS Economy and Budget Desk at the Research and IT Wing and the organizing committee comprised Senior Research Officer, Ms. Tehseen Khalid, Research Officer, Mr. Muhammad Rizwan Manzoor, and Additional Director Finance, Mr. Haider Abbas.