In a first, Pakistan’s parliament to debate defence budget

June 12th, 2008 - 12:21 am ICT by IANS  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, June 11 (IANS) For the first time, Pakistan’s parliament will debate the defence budget. In the past, this was passed without its details being revealed. “For the first time, the defence budget will be presented in parliament for debate,” Finance Minister Naveed Qamar said in his budget speech Wednesday in the National Assembly or the lower house of parliament.

He, however, in his budget speech did not give details of defence expenditure during fiscal 2008-09 beginning July 1.

A source on the treasury benches said the defence budget has been pegged at Rs.296 billion, up 7.6 percent from last year’s Rs. 275 billion.

The government was serious in freezing the defence budget “but we will have to take into consideration the inflation and dollar parity,” the source told IANS.

Finance Minister Qamar said the defence budget would be presented to MPs in itemized form and contain full details of expenditure.

“Though this is not included in the pink book (the budget document), it will be provided to the members,” the minister said.

The minister said allocations for the army, the air force and the navy would be separately listed.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani Monday said: “The government has decided to freeze the allocation for defence in the next budget as a measure of Pakistan’s tangible display to seek peace with its neighbours.”

Gillani said that, in effect, the defence budget would be “reduced in the context of inflation and rupee-dollar parity.”

Without naming nuclear rival India, he said he expected a “reciprocal gesture from our neighbour for the sake of peace and prosperity of the region”.

“The defence ministry and the chief of army staff have fully endorsed the revised format of the defence services budget estimates,” the prime minister added.

The federal budget for 2008-09 has been pegged at Rs.2,384 billion that includes Rs.550 billion for the public sector development programme, Rs.523 billion interest and loan payback and Rs.147 billion for administrative expenditure.

The budget envisages a target of Rs.582 billion for deficit financing, while the Federal Bureau of Revenue has been assigned a target of Rs.1,250 billion for tax recovery.

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