Finance Department of Balochistan in collaboration with Support of European Union (EU) and Public Financial Management Support Programme (PFM-SP) conducted a pre-budget seminar on Saturday. Government Ministers, senior bureaucrats, Opposition members, media and members of civil society attended the seminar.
First thing to point out is that the seminar was started with a delay of almost 45 points even when all the guests had arrived. The reason was the projector in the Sikander Jamali auditorium was not working properly. This clearly exposes the lack of preparedness of finance department staff for conducting this seminar. This is a minor issue but still large enough to cast doubts on the professionalism and seriousness of those organizing the seminar.
In the seminar Secretary Finance and Additional Chief Secretary delivered presentations on Financial and Development aspects of budget respectively. Their presentations were useful, informative and were listened with keen interest by the participants.
Statements made by the political leadership present in the seminar were rhetorical in nature
However the statements made by the political leadership present in the seminar were rhetorical in nature. For instance Dr. Hamid Achakzai’s speech focused more on the democratic history of Pakistan and sacrifices made by the democratic forces rather than focusing on budget. What He said was right but this seminar was not the platform to make such a speech.
Likewise, the Deputy Opposition Leader Zamaruk Achakzai criticized the budget in traditional way. He claimed that the budget will not help the under-privileged sections of society. However he did not discuss or criticize the specifics of the budget as why it will not be beneficial for the people.
Moreover, this seminar was meant to share the budget details and take the input from media and civil society. Firstly, it’s too late to seek any input from civil society now as budget is already prepared. Pre-budget seminars are conducted well before the time when budget is prepared.
Likewise, speakers took all the time of the seminar and barely allowed media and civil society members to ask a few questions. More suggestions and questions must have been taken but that was not the case. There were 5 speakers in the seminar in addition to the two presenters. There is no point of having so many speakers in pre-budget seminar where the job could have been done by presenters alone.
Notwithstanding all the due criticism the seminar was a good effort to enlighten the public about different aspects of the budget. Next year such seminars can be further improved by taking into account the aforementioned issues raised in this review. Pre-budget seminars must be held a month before the presentation of the budget and it should be conducted at a larger scale so maximum people from civil society can attend it.
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