The passage of the 18th amendment has profound implications for the future of planning and its institutions. Before the amendment, entry 32 of Part I of the Federal Legislative List related to planning. It was worded thus: “national planning and national economic coordination including planning and coordination of scientific and technological research.”
Without changing the wording, the entry has been moved to Part II of the Federal Legislative List as entry 7.
Now Part II of the Federal Legislative List is the domain of the Council of Common Interests (CCI), which represents the collectivity of the federation and not the federal government.
The original intent of the constitution makers in 1973 was that the CCI “shall formulate and regulate policies in relation to matters in Part II.” This was an innovation to deal with intersecting sets of issues in the peculiar federation that is Pakistan.
Even in the centralised days of Ayub Khan, railways, Wapda and a host of subjects belonged to the provinces. The dissolution of West Pakistan as a province presented a dilemma. The CCI concept was a way of resolving it.
The centralist proclivities of the rulers, however, prevented the CCI from becoming an important part of the architecture of the federation.
The 18th amendment not only revives the original spirit but also enlarges its role to institute what Senator Raza Rabbani calls a ‘participatory federation’.
It will have a permanent secretariat and a mandatory number of meetings to be held in a year. National planning under its wings would require the existing planning system to change to embed the spirit of participatory planning.
Under the existing system, being a subject on Part I of the Federal Legislative List, the planning process is led and dominated by the federal government. The Planning Commission, even in its reorganised form, is effectively an administrative division of the federal government. It prepares development plans, processes and appraises the projects and programmes to implement them, and is also responsible for their monitoring and evaluation.
The approval of plans, projects and programmes involves provinces at the administrative level in the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) headed by the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, at the level of ministers in the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) headed by the finance minister and at the chief ministers level at the National Economic Council (NEC) headed by the prime minister. The last two are in the nature of cabinet committees, while the CDWP is run by the Planning Commission.
Only the NEC is a constitutional body, but with an advisory role. According to Article 156 (2), it “shall review the overall economic condition of the country and shall, for advising the Federal and Provincial Governments, formulate plans in respect of financial, commercial, social and economic policies.”
On the other hand, CCI “shall formulate and regulate policies…and shall exercise supervision and control over related institutions” (Article 154 (1)). Again, clause 2 of the same Article indicates majority rule in terms of decision making.
Planning has a direct bearing on common economic life. In a climate of cynicism about the real impact of the 18th amendment on the life of the ordinary people, the first order of business for the proposed Implementation Commission will have to be the restructuring of the planning process to reflect the spirit of a participatory federation.
A beginning could be made with provinces nominating members of the Planning Commission, with all policy decisions taken by majority rule.