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Federal budget ignores education and health sectors

ISLAMABAD: Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) reacts to federal budget 2019-20 with concern as development allocations for education and health sectors decrease while ambitious tax targets and multi folds increase for climate change and water resources seem tough to achieve.

The volume of Federal Development Budget 2019-20 is RS949896 million. The share of education sector for the year is set at RS33780 million which is far less than the previous year allocation of RS42766 million. Similarly, the Health Sector development allocation in the federal budget has also declined as compared to the last year. The government has earmarked RS12671 million for development is health sector while the allocation in last year’s budget was RS29999 million. It is also distressing to note that that the government failed to implement 2018-19 allocations by huge margin.

Hence these sectors are not only ignored for the coming fiscal year but were also overlooked in the current fiscal year. Ignoring two most important sectors of Education and Health is of grave concern to CPDI.

Pakistan is among top ten “most vulnerable to the climate change” countries but government’s development allocations to combat climate change have not been adequate in the past. However, for fiscal year 2019-20 a sum of RS7579 million has been earmarked for development expenditures in the sector. This allocation is 0.79% of the total estimated development budget and 9 times higher than the last year’s allocation. Higher allocation to face the challenge of climate change is a great sign but at the same time it alarms concerns as the analysis of historic budget data since 2013-14 reveals that the government has never been able to disburse even 0.1% of the total development budget on this sector. This huge allocation will be a challenge for the ministry’s ability to disburse resource and carry out large projects. These details were provided by CPDI’s Senior Programme Manager Raja Shoaib Akbar in a statement issued to media. He further said that the water and power sector was split into two separate divisions during fiscal year 2017-18. The purpose was obvious, better planning and development in both very important sectors. This arrangement seems to have positive outcome for water management division; the budget allocation of RS85021 million for the sector in year 2019-20 is encouraging as was in the year 2018-19 when RS79000 million (6.86% share in development budget) was allocated. But a look at the revised estimates of year 2018-19 reveals that this large allocation was actually reduced to mere RS3789.5 million. This situation is cause of great concern for CPDI. Huge allocations and then drastic declines at the end of the year point out negative trends and misplaced priorities.

Water management is need of the hour, better allocations are a welcomed step, the government must be careful in execution of these resources and make sure that low capacity of the ministry and traditional shift of priorities does not hamper the huge allocation this time.

The target for Tax Revenue Receipts for year 2019-20 has been set at RS5822160 million. This is encouraging but at the same time highly ambitious. The analysis of historical budget data since 2013-14 by CPDI shows that targets of Tax Revenue Receipts in all these years could not be achieved except in year 2015-16. The target for year 2018-19 was RS4888645 million which could not be met hence revised to a lower level of RS4393876 million at the end of the year.

Keeping in view the data trends new target of RS5822160 million seems tough and extremely demanding. In this scenario, to achieve the Tax Revenue targets for the year 2019-20, CPDI urges the government to reform and strengthen the FBR and also expand the tax base instead of overburdening the already existing taxpayers.

Published in The News

Civil Society demands concrete steps for democratic inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

QUETTA: Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) organized a seminar here in Quetta on electoral and political rights of persons with disabilities. The stakeholders discussed in detail the issues surrounding disability and inclusion of PWDs.

Mohammad Asif Provincial Coordinator CPDI started the session by recitation of Holly Quran, he welcome the participants the handed over the floor to Mr. Raja Shoaib Akbar, Senior Program Manager CPDI, he shared the status of legal structure supporting inclusion of PWDs and also discussed the legal and administrative reforms required for achieving mainstreaming of PWDs. He also stressed on the need to address the disability issues with rights and obligations approach instead of routine charity model.

Organization for Special Talent (HOST), Founder of Quetta Online and a Disable activist Mr. Zia Khan, Advocate and PWDs legislator Mrs. Qamaurnisa, Assistant Director NADRA Mr. Abdul Manan Achakzai, Regional Election Commissioner Mr. Mohammad Fayaz and other disability organizations and stake holders stated that the disabled people were facing lot of difficulties in obtaining the disability certificate and special National Identity Card. They also stated that the political parties and the government functionaries must make sure participation of PWDS representatives in decision making so that their inclusion on the process is ensured. The NADRA representative and Election Commission official gave their views on the matter and ensured that both institutions were determined to support the PWDs more effectively to participate in electoral process of Pakistan.

The Secretary Social Welfare Mr. Abdul Rauf Baloch explained that the social welfare department was playing its role in providing services to the PWDs. He also shared that the department was doing its utmost to simplify the procedure for obtaining disability certificate.

Mr. Subhan Ali President Blind Association and Mr. Samiullah President Hamdared e Mazoran said that there was great gap that required to be filled urgently. The government must take concrete steps for welfare of PWDs including and improve legal infrastructure to ensure participation of PWDs in electoral process. This could be initiated by making it mandatory for the political parties through law to establish and maintain disability wings and fix a reasonable percentage to PWDs in special quota seats and general seats as well.

Mrs. Bushra Rind and government and CM spokesperson speaking on behalf of the government said government was doing its utmost to improve the plight of the PWDs and government was also aware of the need to strengthen efforts for mainstreaming of PWDs, she showed keen interest in reforming the PWDs rights not only in elections but in other departments as well.

The chief guest Mrs. Bushra Rind appreciated the efforts of CPDI for organizing this seminar and said that a number of mainstreaming initiatives were under way. She promised that the issued raised in the seminar will not be forgotten and he would discuss them with the chief minister for further improvements.

Published in The Balochistan Point

Detailed Revenue Budget Demanded

Islamabad April 25, 2019: Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has demanded the Federal Government to develop a detailed revenue budget and present it in the Parliament for greater transparency and to facilitate more efficient expenditure planning and parliamentary oversight.

In its letters to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Minister of State for Revenue, CPDI has noted that the annual budget presented by the Federal Government in the Parliament each year includes details about current and development expenditures, but very limited information is shared about revenue collection estimates, relevant assumptions and targets for each month, sector, region, district and lower zones or areas of responsibility. This effectively means little transparency and inadequate planning, which makes it hard for legislators, media and civil society to scrutinize the justification of set targets and then track performance against targets for each month, sector, region and district or lower tiers. It also makes it challenging to efficiently plan expenditures and scrutinize performance against targets in the parliament or other forums.

CPDI has demanded that the FBR should be required to develop a detailed revenue budget, which should provide, among others, full details about assumptions for revenue targets in relation to different types of taxes; objectives of various tax measures (e.g. to raise revenue or incentivize certain sectors, etc.); overall revenue targets including for different types of taxes; sector-wise revenue targets; province-, region- and district-wise revenue targets; ongoing tax measures; new tax measures; sectors or regions that remain exempt from one or the other type of tax, and the reasons thereof; and assessment of impact of ongoing and new tax measures on relevant sector of economy.

It has further demanded that the proposed revenue budget should be presented in the Parliament as a part of the annual budget, and then FBR should be required to submit quarterly performance reports in relation to each tax, province, region and district in the Parliament.

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights fails to gain govt attention

ISLAMABAD: When Imran Khan, the opposition leader, would say that people did not pay tax because of their mistrust on the government, an advisory committee of eminent experts, constituted by Federal Tax Ombudsman, was busy in preparing a report to diagnose the problem and subsequent solutions.

Among other prescriptions, it drafted Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TBR) to inspire their confidence on the government. The report was furnished and uploaded on the FTO website by Dr Shoaib Suddle, then FTO, left the office and report is still there without getting due attention. Instead, the previous government formed a Tax Reform Commission but its recommendations were not implemented either.

As PTI government took charge amid high hopes, the revenue collection dipped further touching even a historic low and it suggested Imran Khan was unable to regain the confidence of taxpayers. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, who was part of the advisory committee, drafted TBR to invite attention of the government on the bill of rights.

Founder of Center for Peace and Development Initiatives, Mukhtar is a prominent transparency rights activist. He has served as information commissioner of Punjab RTI Commission.

In the beginning of this month, he wrote letters to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Finance Minister Asad Umar, State Minister for Finance Hammad Azhar and Chairmen of Standing Committees on Finance in Senate and National Assembly both. None of them has replied so far. A reading of TBR suggests its implementation will not only inspire the confidence of taxpayers, it will also be a great step forward towards changing the mindset of tax administration.

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights has been designed with a purpose to provide best quality services by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities; ensuring the government frame and practice tax laws and policies with integrity and fairness.

The proposed bill of rights grants nine rights to a taxpayer: right to information and assistance; right to privacy and confidentiality; right to professional, fair and courteous services; right to representation and be heard; right to fair and just tax system; right to timely and remedial actions; right to administrative review and right to judicial review.

Above all of them are governing principles which are also related to the rights as it requires the government not to levy any tax without approval from Parliament meaning thereby no taxation through SROs. Also, it has been demanded, that taxpayers concerned be consulted before imposition of any new tax. For example, if it to be levied on salaried class, they should be consulted. Likewise, different industrial sectors and traders community should also be consulted before imposition of a new tax.

Right to information and assistance requires the FBR to provide taxpayers on demand complete, accurate, clear and timely information regarding the basis for and amount of any tax, penalty or refund owed. A taxpayer must be informed what is being taxed and procedure of payment. Moreover, FBR shall explain a taxpayer’s right and assist him in protecting those rights. A taxpayer shall also have a right to speedy information about various categories like number of taxpayers, tax defaulters, filers versus non-filers, current and development budget, refunds, status of tax related cases in courts and tribunals, role and responsibilities of various officers etc. FBR shall also pro-actively disclose information of public interests.

Right to privacy demands FBR of maintaining confidentiality of taxpayer information (except as authorised by law). Right to professional, fair and courteous service requires FBR to serve taxpayers in a befitting and expeditious manner. A taxpayer will be entitled to lodge a complaint with a senior officer in the event of improper behaviour of a dealing staff. If the supervisory officer does not entertain complaint to the satisfaction of the aggrieved taxpayer, he can have recourse to the FBR member concerned and onward to chairman.

Right to representation and be heard entitles taxpayer the right either to present himself in person or through an appointed representative. If a taxpayer (or his representative) during an interview seeks time to consult an expert, he shall be obliged and FBR stop and reschedule the interview.

Fair and just tax system is yet another right of a taxpayer which shall protect him from perverse and arbitrary, unreasonable, biased, oppressive or discriminatory decisions, processes and recommendations by FBR. A taxpayer is responsible for paying only the correct amount of tax due under the law; neither more nor less.

A taxpayer also shall have the right, according to the draft, for timely remedial action against illegal and arbitrary acts of FBR and entitled to relief from penalties and interest under tax legislation because of extraordinary circumstances. FBR shall waive penalty if taxpayer can show that he acted reasonably in good faith or relied on the incorrect advice of an FBR employee. It shall also waive interest that is result of certain errors or delays caused by an FBR employee.

A taxpayer has the right to administrative review by the Federal Tax Ombudsman and subsequently any representation before the President of Pakistan. He has the right not to pay tax amount in dispute unless Tax Ombudsman directs so. Tax Ombudsman shall help a taxpayer to enforce the rights granted under this charter.

A taxpayer has the right of appeal or review of his case before an independent judicial tax appellate system if he disagrees with FBR about the amount or his tax liability or FBR collection actions. A taxpayer has the right to seek additional judicial remedy in court.

Published in The News International 

CPDI stressed effective legislation on RTI law in Balochistan

QUETTA:  Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has urged the Balochistan government to make amendments in RTI act, 2005 in the light of international best practices.The amendments shall aim to promote transparency, openness and maximum disclosure of information; like RTI laws applicable in KP, Punjab and Sindh. Provincial cabinet of Balochistan has formed a committee to discuss proposed amendments in RTI Act, 2005.

Mr. Amer Ejaz, Executive Director CPDI said that KP, Punjab, Sindh and federal government has repealed weak RTI laws and replaced it with progressive RTI laws. The Government of Balochistan should now follow the suit and expedite legislation of effective RTI law. Citizens and journalists face innumerable problems in having access to government held information related to public matters. He added that Balochistan FOIA 2005 is not effective and doesn’t provide legitimate access to information held by public bodies.

Currently, Balochistan has the weakest RTI law in Pakistan because it has many flaws e.g. scope is restrictive, process of getting information under RTI is neither free nor easy, list of exempted information is longer than the disclose able information. Most importantly, citizens of Balochistan do not have an independent appellate forum like Punjab Information Commission and KP RTI Commission.  He further said that RTI Law is an instrument of change for bringing much needed transparency and accountability in the provincial governmental sphere.

Published in Balochistan Express

 

CPDI stressed effective legislation on RTI law in Balochistan

QUETTA:  Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has urged the Balochistan government to make amendments in RTI act, 2005 in the light of international best practices. The amendments shall aim to promote transparency, openness and maximum disclosure of information; like RTI laws applicable in KP, Punjab and Sindh. Provincial cabinet of Balochistan has formed a committee to discuss proposed amendments in RTI Act, 2005.

 Mr. Amer Ejaz, Executive Director CPDI said that KP, Punjab, Sindh and federal government has repealed weak RTI laws and replaced it with progressive RTI laws. The Government of Balochistan should now follow the suit and expedite legislation of effective RTI law. Citizens and journalists face innumerable problems in having access to government held information related to public matters. He added that Balochistan FOIA 2005 is not effective and doesn’t provide legitimate access to information held by public bodies.

 Currently, Balochistan has the weakest RTI law in Pakistan because it has many flaws e.g. scope is restrictive, process of getting information under RTI is neither free nor easy, list of exempted information is longer than the disclose able information. Most importantly, citizens of Balochistan do not have an independent appellate forum like Punjab Information Commission and KP RTI Commission.  He further said that RTI Law is an instrument of change for bringing much needed transparency and accountability in the provincial governmental sphere.

Published in The Balochistan Point