ISLAMABAD: Just a few days before the federal budget, President Asif Ali Zardari has constituted a Punjab-heavy National Economic Cou­ncil (NEC) to finalise the country’s overall development plan and macroeconomic targets for the next year under vigilant eyes of the IMF.

According to a notification issued by the cabinet division on Friday, the 13-member NEC is led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and comprising four provincial chief ministers as required under clause (1) of Article 156 of the Constitution.

NEC is the highest constitutional body responsible for reviewing the cou­n­try’s overall economic condition and formulating plans while ensuring balanced development and regional equity.

The four other federal members in the council include deputy prime minister and foreign minister Ishaq Dar, defence minister Khwaja Asif, finance minister Moham­mad Aurangzeb and planning minister Ahsan Iqbal. Under clause 1(c) of Article 156, the four federal members are nominated by the PM.

This is for the first time that all the four federal members of the NEC belong to Punjab and provides a clear majority of seven votes to the Punjab province and the federal government, compared to six members of all the three other provinces.

The four other members nominated for the co­­uncil by the respective chief ministers as requi­r­­ed under clause 1(b) of Article 156 include provincial ministers Marri­y­­um Aurangzeb, Jam Khan Shoro, Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and adviser to KP chief minister on finance Muzammil Aslam.

Besides, these constitutional slots, five federal representatives would be co-opted on special invitation. These include minister for economic affairs division Ahad Khan Chee­­ma, deputy chairman of planning commission and federal secretaries for fin­ance, economic affairs and planning and development.

Under Article 156, the NEC is responsible for reviewing the overall economic condition of the country and for advising the federal and provincial governments to formulate plans in respect of financial, commercial, social and economic policies.

In formulating such plans, NEC is required amongst other factors, to ensure balanced development and regional equity. The meetings of the NEC are normally summoned by the PM but also on the requisition made by one-half of the members of the council. The council is required to meet at least twice in a year and the quorum also comprised one-half of its total membership. It is responsible to the parliament.

The maiden meeting of the NEC is expected to be held soon after PM’s return from China to enable budget presentation on June 12.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2024

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