Political Show

The budget is currently in the National Assembly, receiving minimal applause. The discussion on the budget lacks substantial outcomes, with members primarily engaging in their usual political business of criticizing it. The opposition is focused on blaming and name-calling, without offering any concrete suggestions for improving the finance bill. Similarly, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) claims the budget lacks vision and direction but fails to provide any constructive suggestions.

Overall, the budget debate in the House is more of a political show, with each member furthering their party line or expressing their grievances against the government. This was expected, and the actual work on the budget, such as tailoring it to diffuse the tax burden as much as possible, is happening behind the scenes in collaboration with stakeholders like industrialists and economists. Politicians mostly comment in a political style, and this classic game show has been evident in the National Assembly for the past three days.

It is not entirely the opposition or coalition’s fault. The government did not previously create any space for House members to express their views on policy matters. This is the first time the House has been opened for discussion, giving all the MNAs their first opportunity to make political statements and express concerns. The Parliamentary committees are also relatively new, formed after a contested and prolonged process. Once the dust of political uproar settles, we can expect a more substantial outpouring of constructive and technical input from the members.

The culture of Parliamentary debate in Pakistan is not very sophisticated and is often hijacked by shouts, protests, boycotts, and other disruptions. The budget debate is experiencing a similar fate. Let us hope that the focused discussions behind the scenes will enable the government to create as much leverage as possible and ease the tax regime where it is due.

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