Sindh: Sindh’s Voice Heard After 35 Years, Says CM
Below is an article published by thenews.com.pk :
He was referring to a perceived “major breakthrough” in the third National Finance Commission (NFC) meeting held recently in Quetta, where a decision was taken to give the new NFC Award on multiple criteria and transfer general sales tax (GST) on services to the provinces.
On Wednesday, Shah gave the policy statement at the Sindh Assembly before leaving for Islamabad to attend a meeting of coalition parties to be chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari, reportedly to decide the fate of the local government system. The CM said that the NFC was a very old and serious issue, which was directly linked to the progress and development of Sindh.
He recalled that he represented Sindh in the first NFC Award given by the Z.A Bhutto government in 1974, and claimed that it was announced at the time that for the time being, this award would be given on the basis of population; other criterion would also be given weight in the next award. The Z.A Bhutto government, however, was overthrown by the military, and when democracy was restored after 11 years in 1998, Benazir Bhutto’s government was not given an opportunity to give a new NFC Award, Shah maintained.
He said that an “arbitrary” award was given in 1997 during a caretaker set up under President Farooq Leghari. This trend continued, and the NFC had been given arbitrarily for the past 13 years. Shah said that he had seen the proceedings of the NFC meetings in which representatives of provinces left it up to the “sweet will” of Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf to decide the NFC and he also continued the population criteria.
Now, however, for the first the time in 35 years, multiple criteria, such as area, backwardness, poverty and resource generation have been accepted for distribution of the NFC Award by Punjab and the finance minister, the CM said, adding that nowhere in the world are resources distributed solely on the basis of population.
He said apart from multiple criteria for the NFC award, another complicated issue was GST on services. It was a provincial subject, which was illegally and unconstitutionally taken away by the Centre in the year 2000. Sindh’s share in the GST on services was 70 per cent but it was being given only 23 per cent on the basis of population, Shah said. It was strange and illogical that Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf asked the provinces to promulgate an ordinance in 2000 about the GST on services and subsequently, the Centre started collecting it, he claimed.
Last year, Rs67 billion were collected on GST on services and Sindh’s share in it would have been 40 per cent. It was, however, given only 23 per cent, Shah said, adding that Sindh has been suffering a loss of Rs20 billion to Rs25 billion annually on account of the Centre’s illegal decision to collect GST on services.
He said that the issue of gas development surcharge has also been resolved; Sindh’s share in gas production was over 70 per cent, while Balochistan’s share was 22 per cent.
Shah said that multiple criteria for the new NFC Award would not hurt Punjab financially, because it would be given money through “other ways”. He, however, did not elaborate.
The CM also appreciated the efforts of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) parliamentary leader Sardar Ahmed, who, in the capacity of minister for finance in the outgoing government, has made way for a fair NFC Award.
Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Opposition leader Jam Madad and the MQM’s deputy parliamentary leader, Faisal Subzwari, appreciated the efforts of the Sindh CM for achieving a “major breakthrough” and for making Sindh’s voice heard. They said that the reconciliation policy initiated by slain Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson and former premier Benazir Bhutto and followed by President Asif Ali Zardari made this possible because it created a “conducive atmosphere.”