Treasury’s numerical poverty in the Senate has failed its quite unwise attempt to amend a constitutional provision that protects the provinces’ share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, thanks to a united stand by the opposition. The cash-strapped Centre wants to get more resources from the already struggling provinces without creating consensus among the federating units. The move, put up by the Maif, was rejected by the Upper House by a 25-17 majority vote. The NFC Award facilitates the distribution of financial resources among provinces and the federal government, such as taxes collected by the federal government which form a divisible pool. This pool consists of taxes on income collected through corporate tax, sales tax and export duties, etc. The award, which is to be formed by the president after every five years, is duly guarded in Article 160 (3A) of the Constitution, which reads, “The share of the provinces in each award of National Finance Commission shall not be less than the share given to the provinces in the previous award.” All logics and reasons besides economic principles support the idea of keeping the monetary shares of provinces strengthened and intact, instead of slashing it, given the ever-increasing expenditures of government affairs. The mover of the bill wants to get the constitutional provision for allocations on the basis of needs and liabilities of the provinces amended for, what he thinks, Article 160 (3A) is against the principle of equitable and fair distribution of resources.
The move is dangerous. First, the NFC was earned after a lot of hectic efforts by the PPP government in 2010. The binding force among the federating units should be strengthened more instead of weakening it or making it a matter of discard. Second, the government, read both federal and provincial, should work on increasing their resources. In this regard, the federal government needs to reorganize the Federal Board of Revenue, besides streamlining the payment mechanism to provinces. Finally, the mover should understand that it is the federating units that collect major part of the divisible pool to run the affairs of the State. It is the time all parties take the constitution as well as the NFC awards as established democratic principles. These bonds should be strengthened as autonomous federating units will surely lead to a prosperous Pakistan. The mover should explain his intentions to his colleagues and the nation more candidly.