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> Citizens’ Forum demands Reforms in the Budget Process in the Punjab Assembly
   
 
Citizens Forum
July 25, 2011
Lahore


Download Citizen's Report [PDF]
Download Urdu Version [PDF]
   

Lahore, July 25: Citizen’s Forum held in Lahore demanded that reforms be introduced in the Budget Process of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab and that report prepared by the 35 member committee on reforms in the rules of the business of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, specially related to the budget session, should be released and implemented by the House. The Citizens’ Forum organized by PILDAT, met with Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, Acting Speaker, Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, in the chair to discuss the performance of the Punjab Assembly in the Budget Session 2011-2012.

 
 

The adverse effects of bureaucratic strongholds in the Punjab Government and Assembly were denounced by all the guest speakers; Rana Mashhood criticized the legislation passed as merely extrapolating the civil departments’ desires, handed down by the respective heads to be perpetually endorsed by the people in power, and perpetually opposed by the opposition with little regard to the actual substance of the laws and regulations. Ikram Rabbani Rana, Former Provincial Health Minister and former Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, seconded this opinion, and also blamed the lack of interest showed by most MPAs when it came to scrutinizing the budget, claiming that they did not even read the budget, let alone debate on it. He was also of the opinion that the present Finance Committee should be abolished and a budget committee be constituted to liaise with the government departments to formulate the budget.

 
 

In his opening remarks, while giving an introduction of the Citizens’ Forum, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director PILDAT, highlighted the performance of the Punjab Assembly in its budget session 2011-2012. He said that the budget session for the fiscal year 2011-2012 in Punjab Assembly lasted for a total of 19 days with actual number of working days being 13. Comparing the budget sessions of all Provincial Assemblies he said that the number of working days almost remained the same with Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies at 13 and 12 respectively and Balochistan Assembly at only 6 days. Discussing the participation of the political parties in the general debate on the Budget 2011-2012, he said that the parties consumed as much time as their percentage representation in the house. Talking about the suggested changes in the budget process, Mr. Mehboob presented the models from the sate legislatures of India, Canada and South Africa and stressed that it was pivotal for the standing committees to have an enhanced role in the budget process.

 
 

Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed, Anchorperson, Geo Television network, while expressing his views raised important points about expenditure and allocation, demanding for fuller discussions on the amount to be spent and how certain projects are chosen in lieu of others. Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed further said that the budget process can only be made effective if it includes the views of the masses. He was of the opinion that the Standing Committees of the House should be strengthened and their role in the budget process should be enhanced. The Standing Committees should invite input from the public through newspaper ads and the suggestions put forward by the public should be the guidelines for making budget allocations. He further said that no budget will work for the betterment of the people until the people are not made a part of the budgetary process. He was also of the opinion that the local government system should also be revived and legislation to this effect should be carried out in the House.

 
 

The Forum was attended by a large number of Civil Society representatives, youth, Media and business. Members of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab along with the Punjab Assembly Secretariat also attended the Forum and termed it as an extremely useful analysis of the performance of the Punjab Assembly budget process.

 
 

Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, Acting Speaker, Provincial Assembly of the Punjab and the Session Chair, in his closing remarks, said that the role of the Committees needs to be strengthened and the Committees should be given Suo-Motto powers to become and play more effective role in conducting the business of the House. He informed that a 35 member committee was formed to review the existing rules of procedure and its recommendations are pending before the House. He was of the opinion that that the members should re-activate these recommendations of the committee report which will strengthen the role of the Assembly in the budget making process.

 
 

PILDAT also prepared and launched a Citizens Report on Budget Session 2011-2012 in the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab in both Urdu and English languages that can be downloaded here.

 
 

PILDAT carried out analysis and prepared citizens report on this issue and organised the Citizens Forum under support from a project titled Parliamentary and Political Party Strengthening Project –II for which it received financial support from Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade–DFAIT. The project is jointly implemented by the Parliamentary Centre, Canada and PILDAT.