The NFC conundrum – TBP Editorial

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On 12th May, Pakistan’s President finalized the 10th National Finance Commission (NFC) and a notification was issued regarding formation of the committee, which will decide the share of fiscal resources earmarked for the federating units (provinces).

Under the last NFC award and guaranteed by the 18th amendment the vertical distribution among the Centre and Units will remain intact at 42.5% and 57.5% respectively. To increase its share in the divisible pool, the federal government needs to amend the 18th amendment which is an uphill task and seems improbable at the moment as it can inflict another political crisis in the country.

According to multiple Pakistani sources, the federal government intends to attack the horizontal distribution (province’s share) and ‘make’ the units share the burden of defense/security, debt servicing, losses in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and development of AJK/GB regions, which are all federal government’s responsibilities and units are not liable to assist as it stands.

Renowned economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali, who had represented Balochistan as a finance expert in past, has estimated the losses in the share of provinces that he shared with a Pakistani daily ‘The News’. He stated that the share of provinces might come down from 57.5 percent to 39.6 percent of total 99 percent with deduction in share up to 15 percent.

However, none of the federating units would want to have a cut in their share which is estimated to be almost 15 percent of their 57.5 percent. This problem also seems to be handled, to smother the opposition; Balochistan government has nominated Javed Jabbar along with the finance minister Zahoor Buledi to ‘fight’ the case of Balochistan at the commission.

His nomination was not only unwelcomed by the public and opposition parties but MNA (Member of National Assembly) from Gwadar-Lasbela, Mr. Aslam Bhootani has also filed a petition against his nomination calling Mr. Jabbar Javed ineligible for the job as he is not a finance expert and has no emotional attachment with the people of Balochistan.

Why appoint someone who is not from Balochistan and does not understand Balochistan’s economic woes? Analysts say that he is being fixed at the position by ‘high powers’ as a ‘Yes Man’, who will not resist the speculated cuts in Unit’s share at the commission, similarly, the Punjab and KP will not resist either. Only Sindh remains to fight and oppose the possible slash in Provinces’ share.

As a result of all this, Balochistan will bear the brunt and face a bitter irony. Balochistan will not only lose from its already meager share of resources that stands at 5.17 percent, which is now feared to be reduced to 4.39%, but it will also be financing the armed forces from what it could have developed the health and education sector. The same forces, which are accused of committing war crimes in Balochistan.

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