Three CMs walk out of economic forum meeting

Published April 25, 2018
All four CMs meet Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi before the NEC meeting — APP
All four CMs meet Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi before the NEC meeting — APP

ISLAMABAD: After a walkout from the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), chief ministers of three provinces — Sindh, Khyber Pakhtun­khwa and Balochistan — said on Tuesday the country’s highest economic decision making body had lost quorum to approve next year’s development programme.

At a hurriedly called news conference, the chief ministers alleged the federal government did not include provincial schemes in the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP); hence there was no use in sitting in the meeting presided over by the prime minister.

The federal government on the other hand said the NEC ‘reviewed and noted’ the development programme for approval by the National Assembly and also noted that it was not mandatory under the Constitution for the federal government to approve provincial annual development plans (ADPs) or for the provinces to approve federal PSDP.

“Approval of the NEC is not mandatory” for the federal PSDP or provincial ADPs, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Miftah Ismail told Dawn. He said the federal PSDP was part of the federal budget that had to be approved by the parliament.

Chief ministers of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan raise doubts about development programme okayed at NEC meeting chaired by PM

Likewise, after the 18th Constitution Amendment, the provinces were required to ensure development in their respective provinces out of provincial resources and ADPs, he said.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said the 13-member NEC was initially attended by nine members and five of them walked out after provincial demands were not addressed. He said only four members of the NEC had been left behind after the walkout and hence the federal government could not approve the development programme.

Mr Shah said the three provinces also argued that no new schemes should be included in the PSDP because the current assemblies were to expire on May 31. Instead, the provinces believed the PSDP should include only ongoing projects and if new schemes were considered they should be based on equitable and balanced development approach for the country.

Mr Shah said his government would approve supplementary budget for the current year and make allocations for development schemes for the first quarter of next year and would not include any new scheme in the next year’s ADP.

He said the three chief ministers demanded a vote to move forward but since the Punjab chief minister had already left, the Centre did not have a majority and it declined to hold vote for the decision making. He said the federal government was on an unconstitutional path to present a full year’s budget for the next government while its tenure was ending in a month.

Federal Minister for Development Ahsan Iqbal separately said budget could not be made for three months, it had to be for a full year. He said some provinces wanted to include provincial schemes in the PSDP which were required to be funded by provincial resources after the 18th amendment.

He said the PSDP was limited only to national infrastructure and all provincial projects could not be financed by the Centre, even though it would continue to support backward provinces and areas.

The KP chief minister said the centre was not fair with the provinces and it was making budget for the next government. He said it was not right for the current government, provincial or federal, to present budget for the next year.

He said his government had called a budget session to discuss these issues and would decide how to proceed ahead, but it was clear it would approve current expenditure like salaries for the next year.

Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo said the Centre did not include schemes in the PSDP on the provincial government’s recommendations and it was useless to be part of forums where the centre wanted to push forward its own projects on which they had no constitutional right at this stage.

Mr Ismail said Sindh Chief Minister Shah, soon after the first slide of the presentation on development, said it was not acceptable to the provinces because the Centre had not included their schemes in the PSDP. The adviser said it was explained that 95 per cent of the PSDP included old schemes or those that were part of the last year’s budget but were left out in the absence of approvals by Executive Committee of the National Economic Council or central development working party.

The remaining 5pc new projects were like Bhasha dam for which Rs23 billion had been earmarked which could not be considered a federal or provincial project because it would benefit all. He said the KP chief minister alleged the projects in his province were being considered on Amir Muqam’s advice instead of the provincial government while Sindh chief minister was not happy over a scheme in Naushero Feroze because it was in federal Minister Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi’s constituency.

He said the argument was not justified because the Sindh government raised maximum resources from Karachi and spent most of it in interior Sindh but it was their domain and the federal government would not object to that.

He said the NEC cleared Rs1,030bn PSDP including Rs100bn for public-private partnership.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2018

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