HRCP forms Economy Watch to monitor fiscal policies
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has launched a pilot project, the Economy Watch, designed to monitor, from a human rights perspective, the allocation and actual utilisation of resources.
The project will draw upon the collective wisdom of economists, industrialists, working people, journalists and human rights activists to encourage the people to track economic policies and public expenditures and thus generate pressures for the consolidation of a welfare state, says a press release issued on release on Tuesday.
The HRCP called upon federal and provincial finance managers to use the budgetary instruments to ensure the utilisation of national resources in the best interest of the people, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, so that they are not only assured of a higher standard of living but can also develop their personalities to the fullest extent possible.
The commission cites several articles of the constitution that guarantee the right to life and freedom from exploitation, especially Article 38 (the state`s pledge to secure the well-being of the people, provide facilities for work and adequate livelihood, social security and basic needs to the sick and the unemployed), and says the state`s tendency to casually abdicate its public welfare responsibility needs to be curbed.
Pakistan has a clear and non-negotiable obligation to protect the people from being oppressed by unregulated market forces and the rapacious manipulators of economic levers, says the press release.
The commission says the coming fiscal year is important as it will reveal the state institutions` capacity to benefit from the transfer of sizeable resources and powers to the provinces.
The HRCP recommends the budget statements and debates devise a long-term plan to generate domestic resources, end reliance on foreign doles, cut down non-productive expenditure and raise human development expenditure, especially on education, health, and realisation of children`s, women`s, workers` and rural communities` economic, social and cultural rights.
The upcoming federal and provincial budgets will be a test of the resolve to implement Article 25-A of the Constitution making elementary education compulsory.
The priority must be attached to augmenting energy resources so that production and employment can be raised to optimum levels. Preference should be given to cheaper and indigenous sources of energy.
The HRCP stressed the need to remove the imbalance between civil and military expenditures that has been in favour of the latter and depart from the questionable practice of raising the military budget year after year. The defence budget must also be thoroughly debated in parliament.
The commission also demanded measures to restore people`s respect for and interest in budgets and other financial statements by showing due respect for commitments made, avoiding ad-hoc changes and mini-budgets, and creating an efficient implementation and transparency mechanism.
Notwithstanding the heavy pressures of current issues serious efforts are needed to resolve long-pending issues, such as the need for a rational land ownership and utilisation pattern, widening of the tax base, taxing of farm incomes, review of concessions to traditionally privileged industries and businesses, and expansion of the employed labour force especially by increasing women`s share in it.
The adverse impact on the economy of the overall environment, characterised as it is by uncontrolled terrorism, corruption in all sectors and at all levels, discrimination against women, minorities and the socially marginalised people, cannot be gainsaid. Those responsible for economic management at both the federal and provincial levels have a duty to make their due contribution to the eradication of these evils and to an early revival of principles and traditions of administrative and financial efficiency and probity.