On Monday, June, 14, 2021, the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) organized Post Budget Orientation Seminar for honorable members of the Federal Parliament. The seminar was organized in collaboration with Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Hotel Marriott’s, Islamabad. The seminar is an annual tradition of the Institute since 2012, where PIPS invites renowned experts on Budget, Economy and Finance to thoroughly discuss state of economy, various aspects of Finance Bill to enhance parliamentary role through informed discussions and deliberations by the Honourable Members during the Budget Session. Thirty five (35) participants including 20 Honorable Members of the Senate and the National Assembly of Pakistan hailing from different political parties, 15 experts and researchers from the Parliament, attended the seminar.
The event was moderated by Mr. Muhammad Rizwan Manzoor, Assistant Director (Research). Ms Laraib Kiani, NED-CPDI Research Analyst recited verses of the Holy Quran. Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General (Research), PIPS, welcomed the Honorable MPs and expressed that the seminar will be helpful to Honorable MPs not only during the budget sessions but later in committees on matters of fiscal oversight and accountability. The Executive Director PIPS Mr Muhammad Anwar, formally welcomed honourable MNAs and Senators from both sides of the isles. During first session on Budget Rules of Senate and National Assembly, Director PIPS, Mr. Muhammad Anwar briefed the Honorable MPs on the provisions in Rules of Procedures of both Houses pertaining to budget sessions, various stages from the initial laying of the budget to the last session and types of cut-motions. He pointed out that although Senate meticulously articulates recommendations on the Finance Bill, it remains the prerogative of the National Assembly to accept or reject them which often undermines the effort of the Senate and its members, however it’s a welcoming omen that since last decade, Senate’s recommendations started receiving sizeable share while passing the demands for grants and different features of budget during passing of the Budget and Finance Bill.
Dr. Amanat Ali, Professor of Economics at Quaid-e-Azam University, briefed the participants on the government’s performance in achieving the goals set in the last fiscal years. Shedding light on the achievements, he said that the country has achieved Current Account Surplus, reduced trade deficit at large and improved debt servicing. He also lauded government for running the world’s 4th most extensive social security programme in terms of reach and climate change mitigation effort. However, on the other hand, the government has been unable to introduce substantial civil service, police and judicial reforms. He emphasized promotion of long term economic and trade policies, investing in human capital and increasing trade of market competitive goods and services for sustainable economic growth rather than short term projects. He also stressed improving media regulation for responsible reporting to prevent panic, speculative buying and negative image.
Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director CPDI, accentuated that it is paramount to enhance the role of parliament at every stage pertaining to budget and not limiting to discussion of Finance Bill. He emphasized that the budget must be clear, accessible and transparent not limited to the Parliament but to public as well. He underscored extensive deliberations and debates over the contours of Finance Bill instead of rushing accent from the Parliament. It is pertinent to have extensive pre-budget debates so fiscal decision and allocations are based on representative input.
Dr. Waseem Shahid Malik, Professor of Economics on State Bank Chair, discussed different contours of Finance Bill 2021-22 and highlighted the targeted interventions as well as risks and issues. He highlighted that it is crucial to promote activities over sectors and policy alignment and experimentation to sustain economic development. He also stressed that the Parliament must realize the shortcomings, policy contradictions and confusions in the Finance Bill to rectify them immediately for sustainable economic growth.
The session ended with interactive question and answer session where the experts and honorable Parliamentarians deliberated on queries to reach comprehensive way forwards. Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, DG (Research) PIPS, was the Master of Ceremony; therefore, he presented vote of thanks at 3.30 pm to the worthy panelists and MPs for their pro-active participation in the deliberations. The Members of the National Assembly and Senate appreciated PIPS initiatives for equipping them with thorough researched-based review of economic conditions and the Finance Bill in addition to insightful thoughts for deliberations during the Budget Session. They eulogized the PIPS Research wing for timely provision of research on economy and budget well in time for MPs to trigger an informed budget debate on the floor of the House.