Senate chairman shuns bureaucracy for ‘ridiculous’ interpretation of NFC
ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has said that interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan on the part of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial institutions, over the distribution of powers under 18th Constitutional Amendment and creation of an impression that the National Finance Commission (NFC) is a useless exercise, is highly worrisome.
While referring to the IMF report, the Senate chairman made it vociferously clear that Pakistan is an independent state and will not bow before the dictates of IMF or any other international financial institution. He added that the centrist mindset is creating hurdles in the way of smooth implementation of the 18th amendment and a frivolous interpretation was being given to delaying the announcement of the new NFC Award.
On bureaucracy’s interpretation of the NFC Award that the government is supposed to constitute NFC but it’s not necessary to announce the award after every five years, Rabbani termed it as ridiculous and against the Constitution. He lamented the delay in the announcement of NFC Award and said that it has been reported that finance secretary while taking chief secretaries of four provinces onboard in a meeting, has decided to present the upcoming budget without the award.
“When parliament is there then how can the bureaucracy decide on such matters,” Raza Rabbani remarked.
He further said that the government, in connivance with the World Bank, has drafted a bill to control and to exercise influence over the matters related to the distribution of resources, which is against the spirit of the Constitution and the 18th amendment. He observed that a proper mechanism was laid down and the Council of Common Interest (CCI) was strengthened as a parallel institution to the federal cabinet to manage the affairs between the centre and provinces, and to ensure equal distribution of resources as per the Article 172 of the Constitution.
The Senate chairman reiterated that strong provinces would guarantee a strong federation and there was a dire need to implement the amendment in letter and spirit to achieve the goal of a stronger, democratic, and true federalist Pakistan. He also termed the seminar a step in the right direction and hoped that the experts would formulate solid recommendations through an exchange of knowledge and ideas while keeping in view the political, democratic and constitutional background in mind.
The outcomes of the seminar would go a long way in achieving the desired objectives, he added.
Senate Secretary Amjad Pervez Malik said that the concept of fiscal federalism is not new as almost all federal states have been practising it in one form or another. He added that Pakistan is a federal country and distribution of resources has an impact on income, development, backwardness and poverty.
He also said that the Senate is expected to play a more effective role towards ensuring a conducive fiscal federalism. However, this may not be possible without giving the upper house more powers and say in financial matters, he added.
International Expert Hans Altherr said that some of the important questions surrounding the issue of strengthening federalism, and the role of the upper house here in Pakistan would be considered. He said that this seminar is the first of what we hope are many such interactions with the Senate, which have been organised in close collaboration with the Senate secretariat of Pakistan.
He also said, “Pakistan has a unique federal system and journey and we by no means have the answers or aim to provide those.” He hoped that these experiences will add some insight and inspiration to the efforts of the Senate of Pakistan to strengthen the accountability and fiscal capacity to deliver services and ultimately strengthen its democracy.
The forum of federations, he said, seeks to strengthen democratic governance by promoting dialogue and understanding of the values, practices, principles, and possibilities of federalism and decentralisation.
In Pakistan, the forum has been active since 2009, providing intellectual resources to those seeking to strengthen federation, and is providing expertise in areas such as fiscal federalism and intergovernmental relations to important stakeholders at the highest level like the Senate of Pakistan.
Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services executive director considered the initiative as unique an opportunity to share experiences and ideas which each other. He said that resource distribution has always been a contentious issue in country’s history.
He said that out of seven NFC Awards, only three were actually negotiated and announced by democratically elected governments. He added that political leadership has all the magic and wisdom to resolve various issues.
Dr Ishrat Hussain, Dr Kaiser Bengali and other experts also shared their views during the event.