Rs1.67tr budget approved for fiscal year 2016-17
ISLAMABAD: The National Economic Council (NEC) approved on Monday a development budget of Rs1,675 billion for the period of the next fiscal year 2016-17, media reported.
The meeting approved Rs800 billion for the federation and Rs875 billion for the provinces. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over the meeting via a video-link from the Pakistani High Commission in London, while chief ministers of all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan were also present. He said Pakistan's future was bright and rapid economic progress will help lay foundations stone for further stability.
The premier is set to undergo an open heart surgery in London on Tuesday and is likely to remain hospitalised for a week after the procedure. The prime minister left for London on May 22 for a medical check-up but postponed his return back home following advice by doctors to undergo the surgery. Reports suggested that during the PM's absence, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar will run the affairs of the country. Apart from the budget, the country is facing heightened political situation in the aftermath of Panama Papers leaks, with demands from the opposition parties to probe the premier's offshore wealth. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided, via video link, over the NEC meeting at 5pm, followed by a special cabinet meeting at 6.30pm, according to officials. But this would pose a new challenge for the government - how to protect the federal budget and, more importantly the Finance Bill 2016-17, from being leaked "to the market" for more than three days, a former finance secretary said.
The budget date "is 3rd June, unchanged", Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said. But the way this is to be ensured is unprecedented: for the first time in the country's history, the federal budget will be approved electronically by the head of the government, who is currently in London awaiting heart surgery.
The security and sanctity of the budget is a challenge, said the former secretary. This is obviously an exceptional situation, since the PM is out of the country and the two most important meetings are being held on the same day with a gap of less than two hours. The special budget meeting of the cabinet is always held just before the finance bill is presented in parliament, to ensure that the budget is not leaked to the media.