Rs1.67tr budget ap­proved for fis­cal year 2016-17

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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