In an unusual occurrence, three out of the four provinces will be presenting their budgets on Monday, offering voters the opportunity to observe the varying governing strategies of the three major political parties in the country on the same day.
The Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies will all be meeting on Monday for the presentation of their respective provincial budgets. The outlier is Balochistan, where the provincial budget will be presented on Thursday, June 20.
Provincial budgets are always announced after the federal budget, since the provincial governments need final confirmation from Islamabad on federal allocations for their respective jurisdictions. While two provinces presenting their budgets on the same day is somewhat common, three provinces considering their money bills is somewhat unusual.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will start the proceedings, with the assembly in Peshawar set to meet at 2pm. Next in line is Sindh, where the provincial legislature is expected to convene at 4pm. And the Punjab Assembly will begin only a short while later, at 4:30pm.
The current budget cycle is a highly unusual one: never in Pakistan’s history has a political transition taken place so soon before the end of a fiscal year. That compressed timeline has left all of the provincial governments scrambling to prepare their documents in time and present the final money bills before the legislatures.
Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the federal budget to the National Assembly on Wednesday and said that the allocation for provincial development budgets had been substantially increased, ostensibly to allow them to undertake larger infrastructure projects. Yet in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial governments are led by political rivals of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). Karachi and Peshawar are unlikely to take dictation from Islamabad and Lahore.
What to expect
Each of three provincial budgets will offer some insight into how the government in question plans to govern over the next five years, or, especially in the case of Sindh, whether or not it plans to govern at all.
The Punjab budget is interesting because this is the first time since the fiscal 2008 budget that Lahore and Islamabad are being governed by the same political party. For the past five years, the PML-N has been complaining that the problems in their province have been caused by an uncooperative federal government. Now that excuse no longer exists and the PML-N will be free to pursue its desired policies in Punjab, knowing that they have the full backing of Islamabad.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) inherits a province roiling from the impact of a violent insurgency and military operations. Yet the PTI ran an election campaign on the technocratic credentials of many of its party leaders, foremost of whom is former Engro Corporation CEO Asad Umar. The party has implicitly accepted the challenge of proving its governance credentials in the province as a potential springboard to winning a greater presence on the national stage.
And given the extent to which the party has publicly disagreed with its coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami on the allotment of the education ministry portfolio in the provincial cabinet, it will be especially under pressure to demonstrate its policy intentions on that front.
As for Sindh, the formerly ruling Pakistan Peoples Party has been reduced to a rump in its home province. The PPP was unceremoniously thrown out of office in virtually every other part of the country and needs to demonstrate its ability to govern effectively through Sindh. Yet paradoxically, the PPP politicians most keen to prove the PPP”s credentials are the ones voted out of office in Punjab. The PPP leadership in Sindh, which won re-election despite a poor record, is unlikely to feel quite the same degree of urgency about reviving the party’s fortunes.