ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has managed to persuade the four federating units for at source deduction of 25 percent of their current electricity arrears as this will help eradicate the emergence of the circular debt.
Sindh Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah said that at source deduction of electricity bills of provinces would start from July 1, 2014 and the federal adjuster would deduct 25 percent of the electricity bills that the province would receive in the month of July. The issue of previous arrears would be reconciled within 30 days.
The 75 percent amount will be adjusted after reconciliation process between the federal government and the province concerned and in case it is found that the Centre has deducted an unjustified amount, it will be adjusted later next month. The federal adjuster will be appointed by the federal government in finance ministry.
Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, when contacted, also confirmed that the federal adjuster would deduct 25 percent of current bills and in order to clear the old arrears, the Ministry of Water and Power and the provinces would settle the issue through reconciliation.
He told the CCI meeting that the process would be in place from July 1, 2014 through the federal adjuster. The participantsof the meeting also stressed the need for reconciling the old dues. The meeting decided that representatives of the provinces would sit together to sort out the issue of old dues within 30 days and its report should be presented in the next CCI meeting.
Shah said that Balochistan chief minister had objected to the initiation of the population census process in the country saying his government had successfully held the local bodies’ polls in the province and the current security situation in the province was not good enough to carry out a census. In case the census was held, what would be the fate of the existing local governments? He wondered if the local bodies’ polls in the province would be held again.
However, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab chief ministers said that they had no objection to holding of the population census in their provinces, but maintained that the local bodies polls should be held after the census.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif then said that he would personally consult the chief ministers of the four provinces and the issue would be discussed in the next CCI meeting for final decision.Shah also said that the provinces had refused to absorb the new employees recruited in those departments and ministries by the federal government which had been devolved to the provinces after the 18th Amendment.
However, the provinces were ready to accommodate those employees who were working in the said departments and ministries the time the 18th Amendment was passed.
Sindh objected to the summary of the KP seeking changes in the Irsa Act 1992 for monetary compensation from the province that consumes water from the share of other provinces, which it cannot utilise because of non-availability of required infrastructure. He said that Sindh had also objected to the move under which the federal government wanted to utilise the water of the river Indus for consumption of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. In the meeting, it was decided that the federal government would approach the Irsa (Indus River System Authority) to resolve this issue.
A press release says that the CCI meeting also approved the Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill 2014 (PEEC) for placing it before parliament. The PEEC will formulate the national policy on energy conservation and will suggest measures in this regard. It will also create an awareness about energy conservation.
The meeting also approved an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1898 for restoration of executive magistracy.
While discussing the agenda item on inquiry into the Kacchi Canal, the prime minister expressed displeasure at the delay in the inquiry and directed the holding of the inquiry through international auditors to fix responsibility. He called for technical as well as financial audit of the scheme.
The agenda of the sixth population census was deferred till the next meeting. The prime minister directed that the concerns raised by the Balochistan CM should be discussed with the Balochistan government and a report be submitted within two weeks.
The CCI also approved amendments to the Gwadar Port Authority Act. It was decided that the chairman of the Gwadar Port Authority would be a nominee of the Balochistan chief minister. Regarding the matter of 50 percent membership of the Board of Governors of Gwadar Port Authority, it was decided that amendments to the Act would be made.
The CCI also approved permanent absorption of federal employees transferred to the provincial governments after devolution through the 18th Amendment. The meeting also decided to expedite the absorption process.
Senator Ishaq Dar briefed the CCI on public debt management and supervision policy. He said in order to improve the debt management operation, the government had initiated a process of preparing a comprehensive medium-term debt strategy in consultation with all the stakeholders. The strategy would facilitate in making strategic decisions for new borrowing, including an appropriate mix between domestic and external loans to finance the budget deficit, he added.The meeting also endorsed the Framework for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2013-18) and Pakistan Vision 2025.