5th Budget Session: Lawmakers’ Participation in Fiscal Discussion Declines

  • Duration of Budget Session Curtailed More Than 50 Percent This Year
  • 11 Lawmakers Remain Absent throughout the Session

ISLAMABAD, June 15, 2017: The National Assembly passed the Federal Budget for the Financial Year 2017-18 during its 43rd session that spanned over 15 sittings. It was the fifth budget of the ruling party during the term of 14th National Assembly that was debated and passed amidst opposition’s boycott.

The general discussion on the budget consumed nine sittings with 68 lawmakers (20%) taking part in it. Last year, the budget debate continued for 11 sittings. The overall duration of the budget session was also reduced to less than half of last budget session. The duration of the current budget session was 37.4 hours while the budget session during last year continued for 80.2 hours. Moreover, the average delay in the commencement of sittings witnessed a surge from 10 to 38 minutes.

The House took two days to approve the current and supplementary Demands for Grants. The government moved 150 Demands for Grants for the upcoming financial year and 124 Demands for Grants for the financial year ending on June 30, 2017. The opposition lawmakers submitted 1,704 Cut Motions on these demands; however, none of those were moved due to the absence of the relevant lawmakers from the budget proceedings.

In addition to the Finance Bill, the House considered two government and nine Private Members’ bills. One of the government bills, the Companies Bill, 2017 was passed while the others were referred to the relevant committees for review. Moreover, the lawmakers adopted two resolutions condemning the attacks on Iranian Parliament and mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini and recommending the government to play its role in resolving the diplomatic crisis between the Gulf countries. The lawmakers also raised two Calling Attention Notices on issues of public importance.

The Speaker presided over 62% of the proceedings this year as compared to 44% of last year’s budget session. The Deputy Speaker chaired 19% and the Panel of Chairpersons 17% of the proceedings. The Prime Minister came to one sitting and attended six percent of the proceedings while the Leader of the Opposition was present in 13 sittings and attended 34% of the proceedings. On average, 220 (64%) lawmakers attended each sitting of the session, whereas 11 lawmakers did not attend any sitting of the session.

The lawmakers raised 489 Points of Order (POs) consuming 22% of the proceedings. The POs were related to the political affairs instead of the business of the House. Last year, only four percent of the proceedings were consumed in POs. Moreover, the incidents of walkouts and protests increased from last year’s four to 18 as the opposition parties boycotted the budget proceedings over refusal of the government to telecast their speeches live on the state-run television. The minority lawmakers also staged a walkout against death of a Christian sanitary worker in Umerkot due to alleged negligence of doctors.