18th Amendment Why provinces expect funds from federation?
The PPP recited the hymns of the 18th Amendment the most. It told us that after the provinces have got financial autonomy and they are no longer in need of a federation. The PPP also said that provinces’ share will now be spent on the uplift of the provinces. Then what happened that all those claims became a question mark in the rain of a few days and the trap of financial sovereignty gave rise to the hope and demand that the federation would help? The federation will certainly help, but before that, how to answer the question: Where the money that was received by the province from the centre went?
The situation in Karachi has raised many important questions, one of which is what did the 18th Amendment give to the people of the provinces. The provincial elites must have enjoyed it, but the question is not of the governments and the elites, but of the people. Even after two rains, if they have to ask for funds from the federation, then what is the use of the 18th amendment?
It is true that in an extraordinary situation, the federation cannot sit idle. Improvements will have to be made, but before that the question will arise as to whether the nature of the crisis is really such that the province’s financial resources are unable to deal with it or whether it is something else.
The administrative structure of the constitution was changed by the 18th amendment. It was an economic disaster. Nawaz Sharif agreed because in return the way was cleared for him to become the Prime Minister. That was enough for the merchant’s account. The rest of the story was about the protection of the PPP’s economic interests in Sindh. Karachi is suffering the consequences today.
The constitution had a concurrent list. It was a beautiful arrangement of distribution of power between the federation and the provinces. The Eighteenth Amendment destroyed this arrangement. At the same time, claims had been made that the constitution was restored to its original form. The question is whether Bhutto’s constitution of 1973 had a concurrent list or not? If it was included in it, did you change the constitution by repealing it or did you restore it to its original form? Was Bhutto right who put a concurrent list in the constitution or was Asif Zardari right who ended this list? The PPP must first decide which of the two leaders’ insights are to be appreciated.
An important subject like education which plays an important role in the intellectual formation of the nation is now a matter for the provinces. In a country where every province has its own curriculum, will there be unity of thought in the nation or will there be a dispersed mob? This is the case with health, which is now a purely provincial matter. Each province will have its own drug laws. The sale of a drug will be legal up to Rahim Yar Khan. Beyond that, it will determine a new law within the boundaries of Sindh, whether it is legal or illegal.
Concurrent list abolished, departments taken over and no capacity to run them, we are surprised to read the news that Sindh’s health budget has been spent through NGOs. Is this the provincial autonomy that the PPP feels proud of? The provinces took the resources. The share of the federation in tax revenue remained at 42.5%. The provinces took 57.5%. The amount received by the provinces every year cannot be less than last year. Interestingly, the burden of external debt is on the federation alone. The provinces took the resources but no one considered that the provinces should have a share in the repayment of external debt. What is more interesting is that the provinces can take foreign loans directly. The provinces are claiming the right to hydraulic projects but the burden of line losses is being borne by the federation. Sindh is also demanding the right to collect GST and the nationalist leaders like Senator Usman Kakar are supporting this demand but when GST is collected by the federation then all the provinces get something but when this responsibility is shifted to the provinces, what will Balochistan get? How much economic activity is there in Balochistan that it will be able to collect GST enough to meet its expenses? Taxes on agriculture and allied services used to be levied by the federation but now it is levied by the provinces. But when two rain spells came, the provincial government started asking for funds instead of regretting its mismanagement and shortcomings. The package should be announced. But if this aid is to go in the hands of the provinces under the NFC award, then what is the guarantee that this aid will be used properly?