President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday ap­­proved the constitution of the 13-member National Eco­no­mic Council (NEC) — a constitutional body responsible for reviewing the country’s overall economic condition and formulating plans while ensuring balanced development and regional equity — under Article 156 of the Constitution.

According to a notification from the Cabinet Division, the council includes Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Deputy PM Ishaq Dar, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and the four chief ministers.

The council further includes four more members recommended by the chief ministers: Punjab minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro, Adviser to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa CM on Finance Muzammil Aslam and Balochistan Planning Minister Zahoor Ahmed Buledi.

Also coopted in the council through special invitation were Economic Affairs Minister Ahad Cheema, the Planning Commission deputy chairman and the secretaries of the finance, planning and economic affairs divisions.

Article 156(2) of the Cons­­titution states: “The NEC shall review the overall economic condition of the country and shall, for advising the federal government and the provincial governments, formulate plans in respect of financial, commercial, social and economic policies; and in formulating such plans, it shall, amongst other factors, ensure balanced development and regional equity.”

According to the Cons­ti­tution, the NEC meetings shall be summoned by the chairman or on a requisition made by one-half of the me­mbers of the council. The NEC is requi­red to meet at least twice a year and the quorum for a meeting of the council shall be one-half of its total membership.

It is answerable to Parliament and is also required to submit its annual report to both houses.

According to sources, the critical NEC meeting, essential for reviewing the current year’s macroeconomic situation and development programme and approving the next year’s economic and development agenda, has yet to be scheduled.

PM Shehbaz and Aurangzeb are currently on a visit to China and thus unavailable to lead key consultations until Saturday which could be the first available date for an NEC meeting.

The federal government on Thursday announced a tentative plan to present the country’s budget for the next fiscal year on June 12.

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