Smaller provinces ignored as NEC reconstituted

Council to advise Centre, provinces over economic policies


Shahbaz Rana October 06, 2018
Dr Arif Alvi. PHOTO: ARIF ALVI/ FACEBOOK

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday moved to reconstitute the National Economic Council (NEC) to advise the federal and provincial governments on the formulation of economic plans, amid concerns over little representation given to smaller provinces.

The 13-member council will be headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, a notification issued by the Cabinet Division stated on Thursday.

“In exercise of the powers conferred upon him under Article 156 of the Constitution, the President is pleased to constitute the National Economic Council,” stated the notification.

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The Article 156 of the Constitution says that President shall constitute an NEC that will comprise Prime Minister who will be the chairman of the Council; four provincial chief ministers; one member from each province to be nominated by Chief Minister; and four other members as Prime Minister may nominate from time to time.

However, of the four federal members nominated by the Prime Minister, three are from Sindh and one from Punjab. The PM did not pick any member from either Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or Balochistan.

PM Imran Khan’s nominees are Finance Minister Asad Umar, Planning Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood and Adviser to PM on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Husain.

According to the notification, Dawood is from Sindh who eventually settled in Punjab.

Under the Constitution, it is not binding on Prime Minister to pick federal members of the NEC from every province. But this has remained a tradition.

“It appears as if equitable composition was not on the radar of the PTI government,” said Dr Kaiser Bengali, a prominent economist and a member of the National Finance Commission (NFC).

He said that the principle of regional representation had also been ignored while setting up the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) and the Council of Business Leaders.

Other members are Chief Minister Punjab and his nominee from Punjab is provincial Finance Minister Makhdom Hashim Jawan Bakht.

Bakht happens to be a brother of the federal planning minister. Both brothers will sit together at the NEC.

In addition to the Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro was appointed a member from Sindh. From K-P, Chief Minister Mehmood Khan and Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra are the members.

From Balochistan, aside from Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, MPA Jan Muhammad Jamali is the other NEC member.

Seven special invitees are the K-P governor, AJK prime minister, Gilgit-Baltistan CM, deputy chairman Planning Commission, secretary Finance Division, secretary Economic Affairs Division and secretary Planning Division.

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The NEC is constitutionally mandated to review the overall condition of the country and advise the federal government and provincial governments to formulate financial, commercial, social and economic policies, according to Article 156 of the Constitution.

The NEC is also mandated to ensure balanced development and regional equity while formulating such plans.

During the PML-N’s previous tenure, regional development was ignored and resources were largely diverted to Punjab.

The NEC is required to meet at least twice a year – a limitation that the last PML-N government did not follow in letter and spirit.

The PTI drastically revised the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for fiscal year 2018-19 without NEC endorsement.

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