Journalists asked to report budget in detail
By Kalbe Ali
ISLAMABAD: Senior economists and journalists have advised media persons to make use of the Freedom of Information Act while reporting on the forthcoming budget, and compare the new figures with those of the fiscal year 2009-10 for analytical writings.
This advice came in a workshop for journalists on budget coverage, organised by the National Press Club here on Monday.
Addressing media persons from all over the country, former special secretary of the finance ministry and National University of Science and Technology (Nust) dean Dr Ashfaq Hassan Khan said political events and other social factors made a strong impact on the budget.
“This year the federal budget will be different from the previous budgets due to 7th NFC (National Finance Commission) Award,Â” Dr Khan said, adding that the allocation of development budget for provinces would be higher than that for the federal government.
Dr Khan said the government should not depend heavily on the foreign inflows for budget making as the delay in disbursement led to fiscal crisis for the government.
“As grants from the Friends of Pakistan forum have not materialised as promised the government borrowings have increased.”
Talking about the state of economy, he said the government had become a desperate borrower due to smart play by the commercial banks.
“The commercial banks are not buying treasury bills at lower discount rates as they know that the government has no other option but to borrow money from them,” Dr Khan said. Such issues lead to many stories that the media persons should develop, he added.
Speaking about budget reporting, senior journalists Shahidur Rehman and Anjum Ibrahim said reporters had the responsibility to keep track of events, adding that follow-up stories were also very important.
“There is always a need to keep track of much talked about policy issues like the austerity drive by the government,” Mr Ibrahim said, emphasising that many stories could be extracted from the budget documents.
Shahidur Rehman said journalists could file side stories on foreign grants and loans, energy projects and the utilisation of budget in certain sectors.
Mr Rehman said it was the responsibility of the reporters to study budget thoroughly and compare the statements and allocations.
In the second session, journalists Mohammad Ziauddin, Farhan Bukhari and Ehteshamul Haq informed the media persons about their own experiences while filing budget stories.
Mr Ziauddin said due to transfer of many departments to the provinces, many heads would have no allocations in the federal budget this year. Similarly, the inflows have to be taken into account while filing stories as they are confusing, he added.
The concluding sessions of the workshop on Tuesday would focus on taxation issues and the development budget.