- By Muhammad Faisal
As Pakistan gears up for the imminent local elections scheduled for February 8, 2024, understanding the intricacies and the detailed structure of local government budgeting becomes imperative and vital for citizens. The budgeting process of local governments is a vital component that directly impacts the communities and their development initiatives, as every single aspect in development and non development budget revolves around the entire structure of the budgeting process.
A budget is more than a mere financial estimate; it’s a roadmap of illustrating the anticipated revenue and planned expenditure for a defined period of time. In the context of local governments, budgets play a crucial and vital role in determining where funds are allocated and how they are utilised for the betterment of communities.
The process, delineated and described by Article 80 of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, embodies an estimate of government revenue and expenditure for a fiscal year. This annual budget statement serves as a comprehensive document outlining project costs and anticipated completion timelines, and offering insight into the allocation of resources and project priorities.
One significant aspect of this budgeting paradigm is participatory planning, fostering a democratic decision-making process that empowers ordinary citizens to allocate a portion of the local or public budget. Participatory budgeting enables community members to debate and prioritise projects, leading to increased unity and mutual benefits among citizens and further making the process of budgeting more engaging.
Another crucial facet (aspect) highlighted in the budgeting process is a gender perspective.
Mini budgeting from a gender lens ensures a fair and balanced assessment, aiming to eliminate any form of discrimination against men and women during budget planning, execution, and evaluation stages. Every gender gets an equal opportunity to participate in the budgeting process.
The meticulous and conscientious budgeting process unfolds in a series of steps, commencing on September 1 each year with the issuance of the budget officer’s letter and a budget call, followed by revenue estimation, cost projections, draft development projects, and analysis of fund transfers by Provincial Governments.
Additionally, the process entails consultations with various stakeholders, including councils, elected representatives, women’s organisations, private sectors, NGOs, the public and the public sectors to finalise the budget. Revisions and changes occur, and eventually, after a thorough review and public opinion expression, the final budget is presented and approved by the relevant authorities.
In adherence to Section 34 of the Local Government Ordinance 2001,the annual budget of every local council encompasses revenue estimates, next year’s revenue and expenses, and clear delineation of funds for development projects, subject to governmental grants and recommendations.
As Pakistan braces for general elections, an informed citizenry is vital. The intricacies of the budgeting process, its inclusive nature, and the planned allocation of resources underpin the community’s future and deserve close attention from all constituents.