Political and bureaucratic compulsions to retain control and power have led to a potential rollback of the 18th constitutional amendment – one of the “landmark achievements” of the current government.
A non-governmental organisation’s research report, which examines the amendment’s decentralisation provision, has stated that the policy of the federal government is completely in opposition to the devolution plan.
The “Devolution and Social Development” study reveals out of 301 ministries and projects only 94 have been devolved to the provincial governments. The centre has even refused to release the Rs108 billion set aside for the devolved projects.
“We have already spent Rs40 billion on the projects before they were given to provinces, now the provincial governments should to manage the funds on their own,” was the reply of the federal government officials, giving an impression that the centre is not keen to pay the remaining Rs68 billion to its federating units.
“The federal government owes around Rs21 billion to SIndh,” the report stated. The total budget for projects in Sindh stands at Rs41 billion. The centre claims to have utilised Rs20 billion on the schemes already.
On the provincial governments’ discretion to either run or dump the devolved projects, the research paper claims that while Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have continued with the projects in their annual development programme, the Sindh government has not mentioned the schemes in its budgetary documents.
Without releasing their budgets, the federal government has transferred some institutions to the provinces, raising serious questions. In Sindh, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, National Institute of Child Health, Dawood College of Engineering and Technology, Sindh Madressahtul Islam, Korangi Fisheries Authority, Oceanography and Hydrological Research, Quality Control Laboratory, Marine Fisheries Research Laboratory and Municipal Training Research Institute have all been handed over to the provincial government
This has created a financial crunch for the Sindh government, which already has an increased burden of Rs2.555 billion due to devolution of ministries, writes economist Rao Asif Iqbal, who has been a part of the study.
The report also reveals how the federal government has enhanced its liabilities.
In 2010-11, the non-development expenditure on the 17 ministries handed over to the provinces was around Rs21.5 billion. After decentralisation, it may have been cut down but the centre created eight new ministries amounting to an additional burden of Rs14.6 billion on its shoulder in 2012-13.
Many new ministries are for almost similar purposes to the ones devolved to provinces. For instance, the environment ministry has been devolved, but the climate change ministry was created. Similarly, the national harmony ministry was created in place of the minorities ministry, which was handed over to provinces.
Under the 18th amendment, the services-providing institutions were to be transferred to the provinces. However, several institutions, including the Employees Old-Age Benefits and Worker Welfare Fund, have been retained by the federal government.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2012.