Budget 2015-16: Setting the PrioritiesIPSweb
Effective governance and policymaking necessary for meaningful budget: Experts
Economists and experts in a pre-budget seminar at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad have stressed on improving governance and policy planning to ensure a meaningful budgetary exercise for the country.
The seminar ‘Budget 2015-16: Setting the Priorities’, which was held on May 15, 2015, was chaired by eminent economist and IPS Chairman, Professor Khurshid Ahmad and was addressed by Dr. Nahid Zia Khan, Dean, Social Sciences, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Mirza Hamid Hassan, former secretary, Ministry of Water and Power and member IPS National Academic Council (NAC), Dr. Wajid Pirzada, CEO, Roots, Dr. Shimail Daud Arain, former president, Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industries (RCCI), M Riyazul Haque, former additional secretary, Govt. of Punjab, ex-member, National Tariff Commission of Pakistan and member, IPS NAC.
Dr. Nahid presented the current macroeconomic picture and suggested priorities for the upcoming budget, sharing that though Pakistan has made some progress towards its economic recovery in the past year, which was also recognized by the World Bank, it did not show any signs of improvement when it came to social development, where it was on track of achieving nine Millennium Development Goals indicators, but off track on 24.
She also viewed that the progress on economic growth also did not look very sustainable as there existed notable trade imbalance in country’s imports and exports while the all-important sector of agriculture and the conservation and optimum utilization of its resources, such as water, was also not duly addressed. She criticized the poor governance and regulatory frameworks, stressing the incumbent government to address these intangible indicators in its forthcoming schemes.
Dr. Shimail voiced his opinion similar to Nahid’s, according to which despite the acquisition of GSP Plus status, Pakistan was yet to cross the milestone of $25 billion worth annual export, resulting in increased trade deficit. He also called for improved, rather reformed design of the present complicated tax system, which alongside creating deficit of trust between the taxpayers and the tax administration, also devoided them from the level-playing field due to government’s inefficient strategies. He maintained that the onus of government’s inept and disruptive policies should not be passed onto the business and industry.
Speaking on the subject of energy, Mirza Hamid Hasan opined that the government had failed to achieve any of its targets on this front, which it had set in the previous two annual national plans after coming into power. The circular debt has also spiraled up again due to loop holes and shortcomings in governance and regulatory mechanisms.
He also slated the government for inconsistences and lack of planning in its policies, presenting the example of Diamir Basha dam, which was allocated Rs10 bn in last year’s budget due to its capacity of storage and the production of hydel power which will give the country a lifeline to overcome its chronic energy and water crisis. The forthcoming budget however, according to the speaker, has put the Basha dam on the backburner and has allocated World Bank’s granted $588mn for Dasu dam, which was only a run-of-the-river project with no storage facility.
Wajid directed attention towards investing more in the all-important sector of agriculture, the value addition in which can lead to job creation.
Professor Khurshid Ahmad summed up the session’s findings urging for the need of addressing the governance issue on priority basis, apart from formulating the budget with pragmatic approach that is backed by proper planning, feasibility studies and the needed technical input.