Nothing much is happening these days in the provincial capital except the 'activism' on the part of some PML (N) ministers and parliamentarians taking extra liberties and so gaining a lot of lime light in the process. At this time of year we are accustomed to witness a maddening activity mainly generated through the budget-making. Though the budget preparation starts much earlier, this time of year we witness some visionary talk and more important some soul-searching in the official and political circles. With this activity an atmosphere is created ensuring the people that they will be better off in the next financial years. The newspapers carry stories on regular basis regarding government's future plans and the mega projects meant to create a difference in the public lives. We have back-to-back meetings in the Civil Secretariat and Chief Minister Secretariat engaging all the administrative departments for some soul-searching and introspection and to assess what they have gained and lost in the past one year and how could a new start be made with an eye on the public well-being. The mandarins of Finance and Planning and Development departments spent some sleepless nights as the budget announcement draws closer. They while sitting in their ivory towers take important decisions about the fate of millions of people. The parliamentarians, especially MPAs too have their own axe to grind on such occasions. They run from pillar to post to have their share in the development of the province. They have no other interest in the budget making whatsoever. But for the reason unknown (at least to me) the Punjab government is a bit off colour if not off the track. May be the Sharifs are unsure about their political future. For sometime we note that things have gone quite slow, moving at routine pace. There is no urgency or thrust from the top. We hardly find Shahbaz Sharif asking his team to 'do this and do that or do everything under the Sun' showing urgency on the part of the government to deliver to the people. Shahbaz himself too is missing from the scene. Even routine meetings on law and order or the ones normally organised to take stock of various initiatives in place have not been held for sometime. Nor we see Task Forces functional giving any output, churning out proposals to be implemented. What happened to the Sasti Roti Scheme? Has it been abandoned or included in the next financial year's budget? We hardly find now any outlet selling roti at the rate of Rs 2. More gutsy governments and leadership do innovative things during budget-making process. Their priority mainly is to create more resources for the government to reduce dependence on federal or central government. They proposed measures to expand tax base and so increase revenues for the government. But in the Punjab whosoever is at the helm of affairs the leadership shy away from such measures for their political fall-out. Next big priority is to cut the non-development expenditures. Here too our governments provincial or central leave much to be desired. Even countries like US are busy curtailing their expenditures to make both ends meet. For example Obama Administration dropped many projects for lack of any output and utility to save the money and divert it to some useful purpose. But despite huge financial constraints, it is business as usual here in the province. We continue to buy more cars, add more departments and districts to increase our expenditure with their output same as ever. For a budget to reflect genuine public needs and sentiments, it needs more and more political input. But here too, this exercise is being dominated by the bureaucracy with the full connivance of political leadership. In states and countries the budget is being debated in the parliament or state legislature before its announcement to set out right kind of priorities. But nothing of this sort happens in this part of the world. Rather budget-making is pursued in a very secretive manner, excluding public and political folks alike. Imagine when the bureaucrats are not very imaginative or equal to the task as is the case of the Punjab government. A junior officer has been made Secretary Finance with little knowledge about the province and its needs. This time PML (N) government is relying more on bureaucracy in the budget making process. The reason being that minister of Finance and Development happens to be from the PPP. Hence there is every possibility that he will be kept at arm's length from this important exercise. E-mail: