LAHORE - The Punjab government is still indecisive and is in a state of wait-and-see about presenting the provincial budget for fiscal year 2018-19.

Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said last week that the Punjab government had decided that it would not table budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 despite the fact that the same ruling party presented the budget in the Centre.

Dr Ayesha said the government had prepared the budget for full year. She asserted the caretaker government would present the budget for the complete fiscal year.

The finance department officials said uncertainty had gripped the Punjab government since the announcement by PTI that its government in Khyber Paktunkhwa would not present the budget for the next financial year, saying an outgoing government had no mandate to do so. However, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the Punjab government would make the decision after the announcement by the other provinces.

“The Punjab government will not present the budget if other provinces don’t announce their respective budgets,” he said. Moreover, the Punjab bureaucracy has also opposed the idea of presenting the budget by the incumbent government. The Punjab chief secretary, the law department and the finance department have advised the government not to present the budget.

Officials said in line with the demand of the opposition parties, Punjab government has decided to present the upcoming provincial budget for only four months, from July 2018 to October 2018. They said the government would also introduce the proposed supplementary budget for fiscal year 2017-18 and get it passed before its term ending in May. Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghous will table a supplementary budget for financial year 2018-19 on May 14.

It is to be noted that the PML-N government at the Centre had to face strong resistance from the opposition, mainly Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, while presenting its sixth budget. On April 27, newly appointed Finance Minister Miftah Ismail presented the budget for financial year 2018-19 amid strong protest from the opposition parties.

It may be mentioned that PTI government in KP has already decided not to announce the budget and left the matter to the interim govt.

 The same is the case with the Balochistan government while the Sindh govt has not so far explicitly announced whether or not it intends to announce the budget. However, the Sindh Assembly is due to hold session on May 10 and on that day dust is likely to be clear whether the budget will be tabled or not.

The finance department officials said the Punjab government had prepared the full year budget, but it would prefer to announce only four months budget to let the interim set-up run its day-to-day business and leave it to the next elected government to table a formal budget for the rest of the year.

Economists the federal government presented the full year budget as it has to fulfil many requirements like defence budget, debt servicing and tax collection besides meeting the international financial agreements, but no such liability is on the provincial governments which have to run their business from the funds to be received from the national resources pool like NFC awards and royalties.