It is pity to see Finance Minister being grilled by the MPAs during the budget session in the Punjab assembly when he has nothing to do with the budget, prepared mainly in the Finance Department to the exclusion of everybody else except the Chief Minister. The poor minister might have seen the budget document like everybody else from his clan during the cabinet meeting usually called moments before the unveiling of the budget and yet he is made to defend something about which he is not well-versed. Mr. Kaira, who is from the PPP, himself made the confession that he had not been consulted in the budget-making. This provides a glimpse how budgets are prepared in the province, even when there is a political government. Much to the surprise of everybody, nobody from the government side tried to take credit for presenting a pro-poor, tax-free budget involving 'extraordinary efforts' from the administrative team of Chief Minister. We have a vast army of ministers yet we saw a few typical faces coming on the TV channels recording their reaction. Rana Sanaullah, the most well known of them, did not even quote right figures as he defended the budget saying it had a lot of attraction for the poor. The ministers who spoke on the budget after its announcement lacked conviction and confidence. From the very start when the Punjab government started its preparation for the budget 2009-10, we hardly observed any seriousness on its part-the seriousness and urgency to create something different this time, keeping in mind the needs of the province on the short-term and long-term basis. As such, budget presented on June 16 was a mere updated version of what was presented last time-same old estimates and schemes with nothing new in it to assure the public. We could find even the same old promises and claims which the government made last time, finding their way into this budgetary copy. Once again the government would find it quite difficult to fulfill them given the position of its finances. So what is special in this budget? The only special thing about this budget is this that there is nothing special or new in it. The budget included a massive ADP for which the government earmarked Rs. 185 billion. The government would again spent Rs. 7.5 billion on the provision of sasti roti. The scheme involves huge involvement of all stakeholders. The economists say the scheme is open to pilferage and leakages and required fool-proof arrangement and mechanism for making it more viable. Besides, the scheme has created a little impact and yet it cost too much to the provincial kitty. Then we have subsidies worth Rs. 18 billion for the poor. But the moot question is from where all this money will come to finance such a huge ADP and subsidies included in it when we have yawning deficit worth Rs. 60 billion. Already we could not realize our revenue targets to generate more funds for the development. Nor we could generate anything from the privatization of government assets despite fixing a target of whopping Rs. 12 billion. If we failed last time to fulfill these revenue targets what guarantee we have that we will manage to achieve them this time. To cover up the vast deficit we will be more dependent on federal government's help. But the federal government is itself running a huge deficit, hoping to bridge it through aid coming from the Friends of Pakistan. On the top of it we did not levy taxes nor did we revise the existing rates. As such it will be difficult for the government to execute the entire ADP and keep its promises. The government's credibility has already been dented for not fulfilling its promises this year. The opposition leader has been drum beating, telling the world the promises the government made but did nothing to fulfill them in the entire financial year. While the government imposed no new taxes, it hardly made any effort to trim the size of bureaucracy to cut down on the non-development side of the budget. Chief Minister himself maintains four offices. There is enough room to reduce the size of the government, but nobody bothers. Again, the budget does not say much as to what are the priority areas for the government. It seems, Lahore which is political base of the PML (N) leadership, is the main priority of the government. The budget earmarked Rs. 30 billion for the couple of Lahore-specific programmes including a Ring Road. Some MPAs think this is not fair. E-mail: nadeemsyed@nation.com.pk