The Council of Common Interests decided on Thursday that the federal government would continue to fund public universities across Pakistan until the end of the current National Finance Commission (NFC) Award in 2014.
The CCI, however, did not state whether the government was reconsidering the plan to devolve the Higher Education Commission (HEC), a national body which is currently responsible for all the affairs of universities.
The government had decided earlier this month to devolve funding for public universities to the provinces and retain only the enforcement of higher education at the federal level, at a new agency called the Commission for Standard Higher Education (CSHE). The move generated sharp criticism amongst university staff and students.
The council considered the report of the committee comprising the federal finance secretary and the four provincial chief secretaries regarding financing beyond June 30, 2011 of the activities devolved or being devolved to the provinces.
The council decided that the financing for current activities devolved to the provinces would be borne by the provinces.
As the electricity supply shortfall hit record levels, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) decided to allow provinces to undertake power projects.
At a meeting in Islamabad chaired by PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, the high powered body – designed to resolve issues between provinces and the federal government – decided that the federating units would submit plans to construct small dams in a bid to increase electricity production.
A statement issued after the meeting said the council had accepted the legal position of the Punjab government to interpret Article 157 of the constitution that deals with whether the provinces could undertake the construction of small dams.
“The council appreciated any efforts by the provincial governments to augment investments in the power sector to overcome energy shortages,” the statement said without giving any further details.
The meeting directed the federal government to make the necessary amendments in the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) Act of 1997 to provide the legal framework for power generation by provincial governments.
In other energy-related measures, the council approved the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) Bill 2010 and the privatisation programme for government-owned power companies.
However, the CCI decided to postpone the consideration of Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Amendment Bill 2010 till the next meeting of the Council.
Health, development and education
It was decided that the federation would provide financing for vertical programmes of health and population sectors. All provincial projects would be financed by the provinces except those being executed under the president or prime minister’s directives.
The council decided that the matter regarding financing for National Commission on Human Development (NCHD) and the National Education Foundation (NEF) would be considered in the next meeting.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2011.