ISLAMABAD: In a rare but apparent downgrade, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will personally head the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), instead of Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, as he notified the newly formed eight-member centre-provincial forum.

This marks the first time in decades that a finance minister will not chair Ecnec, a subordinate committee of the constitutional forum traditionally led by the finance minister. Prime Minister Sharif is also the chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Energy.

According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division on Friday, the newly constituted Ecnec, led by the prime minister, would also comprise Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal from the Centre.

This meant that in the absence of the prime minister, Mr Dar would preside over Ecnec meetings.

The prime minister had already appointed Dar as the head of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation, while Finance Minister Aurangzeb is heading only two committees of the cabinet, including the Economic Coordination Committee and the Committee on State-Owned Enterprises.

As finance minister, Dar used to head almost all cabinet committees, the chairmanships of which are now being shared by the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the finance minister and the planning minister.

Ecnec’s provincial members include Punjab’s senior minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro, adviser to KP Chief Minister Muzzammil Aslam and Balochistan’s Finance Minister Mir Shoaib Nosherwani.

In addition, the Planning Commission’s deputy chairman, secretaries of economic affairs, finance and planning, chairpersons of planning boards of Punjab and Sindh and additional chief secretaries of KP and Balochistan attend all the meetings on special invitation.

Moreover, the officers of federal and provincial governments, as well as those of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, would be called to the meeting if needed.

Under its terms of reference, Ecnec will consider and approve Public Sector Development Programme schemes at both federal and provincial levels, in line with the sanctioning limits set by the National Economic Council (NEC) and notified by the Planning Division.

Ecnec also holds the authority to modify plans proposed by the Planning Commission and to review policy issues related to development projects before they are submitted to the NEC.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2024

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