Finance Department, Government of the Punjab (GoPb) together with DFID funded Sub-National Governance (SNG) Programme’s Punjab team organised a half-day seminar titled “Budget Strengthening” on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel, Lahore.
As many as 45 key functionaries of the Punjab Government attended the session to discuss the legal status of supplementary grants, analyse the past practices and propose recommendations for possible improvements in existing processes. Dr. Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Finance Minister Punjab and Hamed Yaqoob Shaikh, Finance Secretary Punjab led the discussion. Among others, Omar Mukhtar, DFID Advisor; Tim Williams, DFID Governance Advisor; Shoeb Iqbal Syed, SNG Punjab Team Lead; Faisal Rashid, Muhammad Arshed, Maood Akhtar and Anam Hussain, PFM Advisors; and Khurram Jillani, M&E Advisor, also attended the session.
The seminar was an extension of important initiatives, the Punjab Government has supported in the recent past, including improvements in the budget call circulars, introduction of citizens’ budget and top-down budgeting tools (e.g. Medium term fiscal framework and Budget Strategy Paper), output based budgeting in key departments and budget transparency review, etc. An important area of reform in this context is to ensure predictability of the budget by reducing the volume of supplementary grants. This has further gained importance with a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to increase the transaction cost of the Government for issuance of supplementary grants by making ex-ante approval by Cabinet mandatory. As a result, now it is more important to focus on measures to improve the quality of planning and budgeting.
While discussing the positive outcomes of the seminar and its strategic significance during budget planning stage, SNG’s PFM Advisor, Faisal Rashid said that seminars like these should be organised at every stage of a budget cycle to maximise on credibility and reliability fronts. He further added that such conventions on regular basis will also contribute towards future learning of important lessons for the adoption of effective and reliable process changes. Rashid said that through this seminar, some concrete recommendations also surfaced, which can be part of future considerations of the budget cycle.