A LANDMARK decision by the present government aimed at guaranteeing provincial autonomy and removing the sense of deprivation among smaller provinces was the announcement of 7th NFC Award. A long-demanded award opened the mouth of divisible resources towards the provinces along with a mixture of financial autonomy. The award envisaged strengthening financial autonomy and increased administrative responsibility and bringing about a new phase of socio-economic development, removing the grievances of the federating units.

Besides the then existing share of the provinces, i.e., Rs550bn, the award offered an additional sum of Rs227bn to the provinces. Thus a total of Rs1,250bn of financial resources were planned to be allocated to the provinces by the end of fifth year of its announcement. The award was envisaged keeping in view the injustice previously done to smaller provinces, particularly Balochistan.

Punjab got a share of 51.74 per cent, Sindh 24.55 per cent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 14.62 per cent and Balochistan 9.09 per cent. The distribution criterion was based on the factors such as population (82 per cent weightage), poverty (10.3 per cent weightage), revenue collection (2.5 per cent weightage) and the area (2.7 per cent weightage).

The share of the provinces from the divisible pool increased from 47.5 per cent to 56 per cent in the first year, to 57.5 per cent in the second year and likewise increment up to five years.

But can it be expected that additional funds on account of NFC distribution will be better utilised and serve the purpose of its announcement. It is well-known that the provinces are incompetent and poor at utilising/managing funds. It is feared that additional funds in the provincial share can lead to mismanagement of financial resources for reducing unemployment, mitigating poverty, enhancing educational base, providing adequate facilities for health and ultimately to raise the living standard of the masses.

Rampant corruption and inefficient public sector administration in the provinces could be among the hurdles behind achieving the above deliverables.

With the devolution of ministries and federally-administered organisations, thousands of their respective employees are to be absorbed by the provinces, along with burden of their salaries. It will be a challenge for empowered chief executives (chief ministers) of the four provinces to run the affairs of their respective province with an increasing administrative responsibility.

Slow pace of resource mobilisation is yet another issue.

It is, therefore, in the better interest of the provinces that the awarded additional funds be utilised in the public interest with a focus on improving public service delivery and institutional development.

The above aims and objectives, in the current scenario, seem hard to achieve because of lack of transparency in utilising public money and corrupt administrative practices.

Provincial governments must ensure efficiency, productivity, professionalism in public offices so as to serve the truthfulness of the purpose. In fact, the development of our federating units means the development of this country and a step ahead in building Pakistan as a prosperous and welfare state.

JUNAID SHAIKH Assistant Director Higher Education Commission Islamabad