Thursday, April 07, 2005

NFC: delaying tactics depriving smaller provinces their due share

By this time of the year, the budget process shouldhave been in the final stages. Unfortunately it is notthe case this year. The provincial finance ministersare in a quandary as they don’t know yet whatresources would be available to them for the nextyear.

The central government has reprehensibly failed toconvene an NFC meeting so far. There is not even ahint that one would be convened in the near future. Itmeans any hopes for a just distribution of resourceswould be dashed one more time and the centralgovernment and the Punjab governments would get awaywith lot bigger slices than what is due to them.

It shouldn’t however surprise anyone as thegovernment’s flippancy and deliberate dilly-dallyingon the issue have been evident for some time now. Itwas the insolent, arrogant and obstructive attitude ofthe central and the Punjab governments and some otherrepresentatives that forced Sindh's statutory memberin NFC, Mr. A. K. Lodhi, to resign from his position.So far the government hasn’t answered any of thequestions raised by Mr. Lodhi.

It may be recalled that the 1995 NFC award imposed onthe country with the help of the then caretakergovernments had expired in 2002. As required by theConstitution and demanded by Sindh, the NWFP andBalochistan, a new award should have been announcedthree years ago. That is if anyone cared for theConstitution and for the wishes of the people of thesmaller provinces. Unfortunately that has never beenthe case in our country.

The 1995 NFC award is believed to be lopsided favoringthe Center and the Punjab. The three smaller provinceshave been demanding for long to end the unjustdistribution of resources and devise a new formulabased on multiple factors such as the collection ofrevenue, area of a province and the poverty besidesthe population, which is presently the sole criterionfor the distribution of resources.

They have also been demanding to return to theprovinces the GST and other local taxes thathistorically belonged to the provinces and theinclusion in the divisible pool of the recoveries thatnow go directly to the federal kitty. But as theCenter and the Punjab are afraid to lose some funds,they have been delaying the convening of a meeting ofthe NFC to reach a consensus on a new system ofdistribution of resources. These delaying tactics arehighly objectionable and don’t create any goodwillbetween the Center and the provinces on one hand andamong the provinces on the other.

The federal and the Punjab governments would be betteradvised to listen to the smaller provinces and not todelay a fair NFC award. A change of heart on theirpart would surely do a lot good to the country.

Aziz Narejo


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