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3 Chief Ministers walkout of National Economic Council meeting due to budget differences

National Economic Council
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Chief Ministers of three provinces — Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, walked out of the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) over differences with the center pertaining to the next budget and development programmes.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak, and Chief Minister Balochistan Abdul Quddus Bizenjo addressed a hastily arranged joint press conference after walking out of the meeting.

Provinces blamed the center for not including the provincial schemes in the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). The federal government, on the other hand, said that it was not mandatory under the Constitution for the federal government to approve provincial annual development plans (ADPs) or for the provinces to approve federal PSDP, on which provincial heads objected and decided to walk out.

Chief Ministers’ of the three provinces unanimously argued that incumbent government has only a month left and it ceases its operations at the end of May, therefore, it has no reason or authority to present the budget for the full fiscal year. Moreover, the federal government was on an unconstitutional path to present a full year’s budget for the next government.

The government claims that most of the projects under PSDP are old ones and the only handful of new projects are initiated, but, provinces allege that smaller provinces are neglected in the PSDP and majority of their recommendations are not included in it.

CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah said, since, center overlooks the concerns of the provinces then why to call them in the meeting, if it does not listen to their concerns or recommendations. NEC is a constitutional forum having thirteen members, including two members from each province including CM’s, four members from federal government and prime minister.

During the meeting, out of the nine-members present in NEC, if five walked out, how can only four members approve the PSDP? Shah enquired. Resultantly, it had lost the quorum to approve next year’s development programmes, he said. Similar concerns were shown by the CM KP that “if our approval is not required then why should we stay to participate in the meeting.”

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Sindh government has already said to present the partial budget. Though KP CM had first announced to not present the budget, later, it changed its mind to present the administrative budget for few months only, until the new government after next general elections gains authority to present budget for the rest of fiscal year.

Balochistan Chief Minister, Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, also said that government should pass a budget up to an interim period and the next government can present the budget for remaining fiscal year.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak, and Chief Minister Balochistan Abdul Quddus Bizenjo addressed a hastily arranged joint press conference after walking out of the meeting.

Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr. Miftah Ismail downplayed the doubts of the provincial chief ministers and said that provinces are only responsible for their own respective provinces and have no constitutional authority to dictate center and PSDP is approved by parliament, not NEC.

During Senate elections, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf (PTI) had become political allies, Federal Minister for Development Ahsan Iqbal claimed. The walkout was political and is the continuity of the PTI and PPP consensus developed during the elections of Senate chairmanship.

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Commenting on concerns showed by the CM’s, Iqbal claimed that budget cannot be presented for three months; it has to be for full one-year. Moreover, provincial schemes cannot be part of the PSDP, because, after the 18th amendment, provinces can only fund them using their own resources. Other senior PML-N leaders also claimed that this press conference was a political point aimed at scoring to gain a mileage in elections.

Though, the government claims that most of the projects under PSDP are old ones and the only handful of new projects are initiated, but, provinces allege that smaller provinces are neglected in the PSDP and majority of their recommendations are not included in it.


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