ISLAMABAD: The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has expressed “serious concern” over the federal government’s decision to stop providing funds for provincial development projects and termed it “unconstitutional”.

PPP vice president Senator Sherry Rehman wrote on her official social media account on Twitter on Tuesday that the federal government, and not the federating units, was responsible for the lack of financial resources in the country.

“The federal government cannot absolve its constitutional responsibilities simply by transferring its own financial burden on the provinces,” tweeted Ms Rehman, who is also the parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate.

Her reaction came a day after the Central Development Working Party decided to stop financing provincial development projects, particularly those relating to devolved subjects, to shift to the federating units the financial burden that now stands at above Rs320 billion as part of a new National Development Framework under which the federal government wants to restrict its investment priorities to the areas of federal responsibilities and ensure that the provinces take full fiscal responsibility of all devolved subjects.

Says it is Centre’s constitutional responsibility to provide its share in provincial development projects

According to the Planning Commission, 16 federal ministries have been devolved along with development projects to the provinces following the 18th Constitution Amendment and abolition of the Concurrent List.

The financing of projects of provincial nature was discouraged through the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) except for core vertical projects of health and population till 2017. The financial burden on the federal budget, however, kept on increasing despite the fact that the Centre’s fiscal share in divisible pool has shrunk to about 45 per cent from over 57pc under the seventh National Finance Commission award. The provincial projects have since then crept back into the federal PSDP, leaving a limited fiscal space for projects of national importance.

According to a senior official of the Planning Commission, there are about 331 projects of provincial nature worth Rs1.151 trillion in the PSDP 2021-22. He said the Centre had already spent about Rs345bn on these projects. The Centre now wants the provinces to complete these projects with their own resources.

Ms Rehman wrote that it was the constitutional responsibility of the Centre to provide its share in development projects in the provinces.

“It has been proved that the imposed government sitting in Islamabad cannot take the provinces along,” she declared, reminding the federal government that its responsibilities were not limited to Islamabad only, but extended to the whole country.

“Does this government need to be taught the fundamental principles and the federal responsibilities?” she concluded.

Meanwhile, information secretary of the PPP and MNA Shazia Marri in a statement said Prime Minister Imran Khan had been making the people fool by pretending to be an honest leader. She alleged that the prime minister was persistently rewarding those who had been running his kitchen and bearing his other expenses. On the other hand, she alleged, Mr Khan had increased burden of inflation on the shoulders of poor masses.

In an apparent reference to a statement made by a dissident of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, retired Justice Wajihuddin, the MNA said that how a person who had never borne his expenses and never paid school fees of his children could care about other people. She further alleged that Imran Khan had even sold his watch which he had received as a gift during his official visit to a foreign country.

Ms Marri said the country was facing a critical financial crisis and the nation’s treasury was in the control of the International Monetary Fund.

She said the country was facing unprecedented inflation while the PTI-led “incompetent” government had planned to prepare a new mini-budget.

Ms Marri said Prime Minister Khan had forgotten that he would be held accountable by the people whom he had made to cry due to his bad economic policies.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2021

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