Post Budget Panel Discussion with IBA Alumni
The Alumni of IBA were invited to the IBA Main Campus on June 15 to witness a panel discussion with leading economists and experts to better understand the implications of the recently announced Sindh Provincial Budget and its effects on the common man and businesses. The panel included Dr. Ishrat Husain (Dean & Director IBA, Ex-Governor State Bank of Pakistan), Mr. Saleem Raza (Ex-Governor State Bank of Pakistan), Mr. Shehper Hussain (Tax Accountant and subject expert) and Dr. Qazi Masood Ahmed (Senior Faculty IBA). The event was attended by over 50 alumni and the panel was moderated by Dr. Huma Baqai (Chairperson & Associate Professor IBA Department of Social Sciences).
With such notable personalities present on the panel, each expert educated the audience of the underlying importance of the provincial budget and quickly summarized areas of importance to enlighten members with thoughts that everyone must understand to better grasp the importance of the budget. The event kicked off with Dr. Ishrat Husain emphasizing the importance of the Sindh Provincial Budget in light of the Federal Budget. He stressed about how the Federal Budget has to address macro level economic issues such as infrastructure and military spending however, the Provincial budgets will be responsible for alleviating problems in our Health, Education, Sewerage, Waste Management and Drinking Water problems. The arguments that military spending takes away the major cut of the budget while health and education are minor are "fallacious" and shirk responsibility off the provinces onto the federal body of government.
Dr. Ishrat also talked lightly about the importance of having a program based budget as budgets should identify projects and then complete them in time rather than announce new major projects which continue for an indefinite period of time and cost millions before they are completed. He also mentioned that the maintenance and upgrading of existing infrastructure should take precedence over the introduction of new projects.
Following Dr. Ishrat, Mr. Shehper talked briefly about the inability of the provincial level to identify and generate revenues from taxation. His chief complaint resided in the fact that this was the most important budget of the government which could have brought about any radical change in taxation, however, the country will see an estimated Rs.100 Million in unrealized revenues slip through their fingers into the void. He cleared up a misconception regarding the Rs.50,000 tax on transactions as they were a means of identifying ghost accounts in Banks and would not be a nuisance to those individuals or entities which file their taxes.
Mr. Saleem Raza brought his wisdom to light highlighting various bottlenecks in the government, which are hemorrhaging money. He identified the major cause of energy shortages as not being a lack of production but wastages in the distribution channels. Our budgets fail to address those and even with doubling the amount of energy production, it logically would relate to twice the amount of losses in distribution. He also stressed on the importance of research and how the private sector is showing a modicum of interest in acquiring new technologies in the agriculture sector, while the government is failing miserably to improve production while satisfying itself with subsidies.
Dr. Qazi closed the panel discussion by talking briefly about how Pakistan's economic outlook seems positive to the outside world while Pakistanis hold a pessimistic view. He mentioned that the monitoring of the economy has taken strides which has in turn improved the ranking of Pakistan in S&P and Moody, however he also clarified that the Real Economy is the one that people are exposed to and that is truly worrisome for the populace of the country.
The session was followed by a question and answer dialogue where the panelists were asked subject specific questions by the deeply involved audience. Many of the questions addressed fears and concerns of businesses and the panelists believed that there was immense room for growth and highlighted how most areas under the government could yield better results with a committed and honest planning and enforcement committee.