ISLAMABAD: The official of the ministry of Finance has told that budget documents unless approved by parliament are not for public consumption and hence cannot be shared with the general public and civil society.

The Executive Director of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) contacted Coordinator Budget, at Ministry of Finance and requested him to upload all the budget documents on ministry’s website. The official responded referring the constitutional provisions that budget is required to be approved by Assembly before its implementation 

He told that budget could not be shared with general public before passed by the parliament. When asked how general public and civil society could respond to the budget proposals unless it is shared with them; the concerned official told that no comments from civil society are required and it’s the sole prerogative of parliament to comment and approve the budget.

When referred to the general practice of the Punjab Assembly where budget documents are uploaded on the website on the same day it is presented in the assembly, the concerned official said that it was a wrong practice and must be rectified. The concerned official whoever failed to satisfy that why some documents are uploaded on ministry’s website while others are absent.

This whole communication represents a mindset where government institutions are always reluctant to share timely information with public. Enough empirical evidence now exists that people’s right to information is more often denied than granted. Budget in Pakistan is still not considered a legitimate domain of civil society’s intervention. The secrecy that looms on the budget making process ab initio continues through all the stages. This culture of secrecy is further strengthened by the absence of strong Right to Information law at federal level and outdated rules of procedures of the parliament.

CPDI has demanded to make the budget making process more participatory and transparent. It has requested both speaker of the National Assembly and Federal Minister for Finance to look into the issue and share the budget documents with civil society and public