Full stop on ministries’ transfer to provinces

Express April 29, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The move to transfer 24 federal ministries to the provinces under the 18th constitutional amendment is on a hold, officials said on Wednesday.

“Things are hardly moving ahead. Uncertainty prevails,” an official said. The transfer of ministries to provinces is part of the abolishment of the concurrent (constitutional) list. According to officials at the Finance Ministry, these ministries would stay at the centre for one more (fiscal) year before provinces take control of them. In a letter to the central government last month, all four provinces said it would take them some time to acquire expertise for taking over complicated subjects, an official said.

Officials said that at least three ministries (agriculture, industries and labour) to be transferred to provinces are in the process of formulating five-year national policies for the development of the sector they handle. However, one official said: “It looks unclear whether these reports will ever be completed.” It is also not clear what will be the fate of employees working in these ministries or divisions. One option, an official said, is to give them a choice of staying with the central government or shifting to provinces they belong to.

Another plan is to use their services in some other departments. According to rough estimates, the number of employees in federal ministries is not very high and it is unlikely that it will be a problem for the government to relocate them. Adviser to the prime minister, Raza Rabbani, who is heading a proposed commission for the implementation of the constitutional amendment, gave a June 2011 deadline for its execution. The list comprises close to 50 subjects on which the centre and the provinces have the mutual right to legislate but the federation has the final word. Under the 1973 constitution, these subjects were supposed to be transferred to provinces in the next 10 years but this never happened.

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