Budget to be announced on May 26

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to announce the budget for financial year 2017-18 on May 26.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the announcement of the budget had been pulled earlier because Ramazan was expected to begin on May 28, adding that preparations were being made accordingly.

Successive governments had been making commitments to announce the budget in May to provide reasonable time for parliamentary debate, but failed to do so. It will be the first time that the budget comes in the public domain before June.

In reply to a question about the rising circular debt and loadshedding at the start of summer, the finance minister said circular debt figures were being exaggerated by some quarters.

Dar says circular debt figures being exaggerated by some quarters

He said that under a mechanism finalised by various government stakeholders in consultations with international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, an amount of Rs320 billion was a normal phenomenon in the supply chain. “That is why we paid Rs50bn a few days ago when payables touched Rs370bn.”

Mr Dar said it was unfair to compare the Rs480bn circular debt he had cleared in 2013 soon after becoming the finance minister with normal payables and receivables at present, adding that the stakeholders — power plants and fuel suppliers — had their own credit limits and payment schedules ranging between 60 and 120 days.

“These are not all overdue payables” some people are referring to these days, he added.

Mr Dar said it was a tough decision for him to clear the entire amount in one go and bring down the debt to zero in 2013 with the support of all, otherwise the circular debt would have been Rs720bn or above by now.

He shrugged off the question whether the government would release more funds that could widen fiscal deficit during the current fiscal year in view of increasing loadshedding and problems being faced by the Pakistan State Oil. “Other ministries should also fulfil their responsibilities. This is their mismanagement,” he said without explaining whether he was referring to the water and power ministry or the petroleum and natural resources ministry or both.

The Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, had last month alleged mismanagement by the water and power ministry, saying it had ordered oil imports without proportionate lifting of furnace oil by power plants, resulting in filling to capacity of furnace oil storages for up to 45 days coverage, lower capacity utilisation of refineries and consequent reduced supplies of transport fuels like petrol and diesel.

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