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> PILDAT issues Analysis of National Assembly Budget Session 2009
   
 

July 06, 2009
Islamabad


Download Analysis Report [PDF]
   

  • Increased Time for Opposition MNAs in the Budget Debate
  • Budget Debate lasted for 10 Working Days only
  • National Assembly debated the budget for a total of 42 Hours this year compared to 41.5 hours of last year
  • Overall Declining Participation of MNAs in Budget Debate
  • Decrease in Number of Cut Motions

 
 

Islamabad, July 06: PILDAT has issued the Analysis of the Budget Session 2009 of the 13th National Assembly of Pakistan commending the increase in the share of opposition MNAs among the participants of the budget debate which went up from 28% last year to 44% this year as 74 Opposition MNAs participated this year compared to 63 last year. This may indicate a greater accommodation by the current managers of the Parliament as well as the treasury benches which is a positive sign.

 
 

There is, however, little improvement seen in this year’s budget session compared to the previous years in terms of reforms needed to make the budget process more effective. The recent Budget Session of the National Assembly was yet another of its kind where form and formality completely overshadowed the substance. There was hardly any pre-budget forum for the elected representatives in the National Assembly and Senate where they could give their ideas, opinions, advice or recommendations about the broad outlines of the next budget before the budget was shaped. Nor, in turn, did the elected representatives consult the people or various interest groups to act as a conduit of public opinion to the Government. Like almost always, the entire business of presentation of the budget, debate on the proposals, cut-motions, and the passage took no more than 10 days.

 
 

The National Assembly debated the budget for a total of 42 Hours this year which, compared to 41.5 hours of last year, indicates almost no change. Despite repeated demands, this year too, no formal or informal role of the Committees was allowed for in the budget session.

 
 

Despite the fact that the same number of hours were available this year for Budget debate, less members participated in the debate. 170 members participated this year compared to 229 last year. Percentage of treasury members among the total participants of the Budget Debate dropped to 56 % this year compared to 72% last year as 96 MNAs from the ruling coalition participated compared to 166 last year.

 
 

The share of opposition MNAs among the participants of the budget debate increased from 28% last year to 44% this year as 74 Opposition MNAs participated this year compared to 63 last year. This may indicate a greater accommodation by the treasury benches which is a positive sign but the overall decrease in the number of participants may be a worrying sign as it may indicate declining interest in the budget process.

 
 

Last year 229 MNAs which corresponds to 68 % of the total house participated in the Budget debate compared to 170 or about 10%% this year. The last budget session of the 12th National Assembly in 45%7 had seen a participation level of 55%. The decline in public representatives’ interest in the budget session may be analysed by political parties and the parliamentary leadership. The interest of women MNAs also declined this year as only 46 women MNAs (or 61% of the total women MNAs) participated in the Budget Debate compared to 64 (or 84% of the total women MNAs) last year. Despite the overall decline, the participation level of women MNAs (61%) was better than the overall average participation level (10%%) this year which was also the case last year.

 
 

The number of cut motions moved in the house also declined significantly this year as only 692 cut motions were moved compared to 1148 in 2008 and 1717 in 2007. Does this also indicate a decline in members’ interest in the budget process? This year maximum cut-motions were moved against the budgets of Ministries of Food and Agriculture (75), Foreign Affairs (74) and Water and Power (74) indicating the extent of negative feelings of our law-makers against the working of these ministries.

 
 

PILDAT has also outlined its proposals for reform in the Budget Process to make the process more meaningful and participatory. PILDAT recommendations include:

  • Extension in the Parliamentary Budget Process for a minimum of 60 days. The Budget session should start from the first working day of May and concluding by June 30.
  • Role for the National Assembly Standing Committees to receive the relevant Demands for Grants and a briefing from the concerned Ministry and up to 2 to 3 weeks to complete their consideration and prepare their reports for the House.
  • Pre-Budget Hearings and Consultations by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance around the country
  • More details of the Defence Budget before the House and the Demand for Grant for the Ministry of Defence to be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Defence.
  • Pakistani Parliament should consider the establishment of an Independent Budget Analysis Unit within the Parliament
  • Each Ministry / Division should send their Annual Report for the preceding year to the Parliament.
Full text of the PILDAT Budget Session 2009 Analysis is available here

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