No matter how futile a debate turns out to be in the house, the opposition must participate in it
It is difficult to comprehend what the opposition parties can possibly hope to achieve by removing themselves altogether from the ongoing budget process. From the viewpoint of the electorate and the public, it is little else but a dereliction of their democratic obligations and a mockery of the parliamentary system of government. Nothing stands in the way of the federal budget getting passed in the wake of the latest opposition move. There have been no customary challenges to the direction or the soundness of the government’s economic spending plan and no attempt on the part of the opposition to bring out their own budget proposals to the fore. What started as a walkout — when opposition groups boycotted the post-budget session in the lower house of parliament late last month — has now become a walkover. And the treasury benches are the only beneficiaries.
In between, attempts were made to conduct a parallel session outside the lower house. But the results were unusually disappointing. One expected the parallel session to be stimulating — especially when opposition groups claimed their voices were being stifled within the house. It was supposed to air the objections of lawmakers and the public and everybody, including the news media, was curious to know why opposition lawmakers were being stopped from saying in the house. The tone struck during the away-from parliament session was shrill and unambiguous: the government through its finance minister had been duplicitous about the fiscal deficit which was deliberately understated. Judging from what was said about the budget, however, there was very little effort on the part of the opposition MPs to prove that the government was peddling fudged figures and policies
No matter how futile a debate turns out to be in the house, the opposition must participate in it. Even in a dysfunctional system the government has to seek out its opponents and try its best to get their endorsement or advice on any issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2017.