The National Economic Council (NEC) met on Monday, its inaugural meeting for the current government, and it not only approved several projects, but also approved a Public Sector Development Programme (PDSP) of Rs 1.155 trillion, the first time a PSDP has crossed over Rs 1 trillion, the last PDSP approved being of Rs 873 billion. The PSDP includes a provincial component of Rs 615 billion.  The NEC meeting, held ahead of the 2013-14 budget being presented today (Wednesday) was chaired by Prime |Minister Nawaz Sharif, while Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal briefed the press about it afterwards. Mr Iqbal said that the government had prioritised the power sector, and had allocated Rs 107 billion for WAPDA, including to the Bhasha Dam, the Neelum-Jhelum project, the Tarbela Dam, the Golam Gol Dam, the Dobar Khawr project, the Mangla Dam and the Kachi Canal. Yet again, the Kalabagh Dam project was ignored, though an NEC meeting is an appropriate forum to evolve provincial consensus, as all provinces are present.The PSDP is a major component of the annual budget, and it here that the government shows what its priorities will be. That the government needs to finance this PSDP was clearly behind Mian Nawaz’s comments about the need for the FBR to achieve its collection targets. The NEC meeting also approved the government’s targets for 2013-14, which include GDP growth of 4.4 percent, which is anaemic, but better than the 3.6 percent estimated as being achieved this year. Inflation has been targeted at 8 percent, which is very high for a target. If inflation is not brought down below 5 percent, it is likely enough to choke off growth. The economic growth is probably not enough to create enough jobs to give those young people entering the job market. The emphasis being laid by the present government on loadshedding is to be appreciated, especially since it recognises its implications for the economy, but the PSDP at least does not show that this understanding informs policy.This is no time for criticism, but the government must ensure that all, including the powerful, who thought hitherto that they were beyond the law, must be made to pay their bills. When they do, it will show that the government is serious, and enable the bringing to book of other power thieves. It is essential that the budget reflect the priorities of the government, not just because time is limited, but also because all economic stakeholders are watching to see the direction the government takes, before making decisions of their own.