ISLAMABAD:

President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday constituted the National Economic Council aimed at enabling the coalition government to approve new fiscal year’s development budget and macroeconomic framework. 
 
The President of Pakistan is pleased to constitute the National Economic Council, according to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division on Friday. The federal government had convened the NEC meeting on June 3rd without realizing that the NEC was not in place. The NEC meeting will now take place on Monday. 
 
The Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar is also the member of the NEC, which will be chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. 
 
The 13-member NEC is the constitutional body mandated to review nation’s economic situation and approve economic and financial policies in addition to ensuring balanced development. However, the federal government has got included five coopted members, which does not have any constitutional backing.
 
For the outgoing fiscal year, the government had diverted the funds meant for the equal regional development towards financing the hydropower projects and the country’s space mission. 
 
The Chief Ministers of the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are also the constitutional members of the NEC.
 
Under the constitution, Prime Minister has the authority to nominate four members in the NEC. Shehbaz Sharif has nominated Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister; Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Defense; Muhammad Aurangzeb, Minister for Finance and  Ahsan Iqbal Chaudry, Minister for Planning, Development& Special Initiatives as the members of the NEC. 
 
Every provincial chief minister also has the constitutional mandate to appoint one member on the NEC. From Punjab, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Senior Minister for Planning & Development has been appointed as the NEC member. 
 
The Chief Minister Sindh has nominated Jam Khan Shoro, Minister for Irrigation. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister has nominated Muzammil Aslam, Advisor to the Chief Minister on Finance and Balochistan has nominated Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, Minister for Planning & Development Department as the member.
The Cabinet Division has also notified five coopted members. These are Ahad Khan Cheema Minister for Economic Affairs, Dr Jehanzeb Khan Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Secretary Finance Division, Secretary, Economic Affairs Division and Secretary of the Planning Division. 
 
The NEC approves the annual development budget of the federal and four provincial governments. The federal government has proposed Rs1.5 trillion development budget for the next fiscal year -higher by 60% over this year’s original budget. 
 
The federal government has projected Rs1.2 trillion provincial cash surpluses for the next fiscal year under the IMF programme. However, the provinces tend to give large development outlays due to peculiar political situation in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 
 
According to the Article 156 of the Constitution, the NEC shall review the overall condition of the country and shall, for advising the federal government and the provincial governments, formulate plans in respect of financial, commercial, social and economic policies; and in formulating such plans it shall, amongst other factors, ensure balanced development and regional equity and shall also be guided by the Principles of Policty. 
 
For the next fiscal year, the Annual Plan Coordination Committee has recommended 3.6% economic growth and 12% inflation target. The current account deficit target has been proposed at 0.9% of the GDP. The NEC will give approval of these targets. 
 
The federal government’s financing needs for funding the already approved projects have been estimated at Rs9.8 trillion. However, despite the high cost, the coalition government is including more schemes in the PSDP, including those whose documents were received after the last cut-of-date -March 31. 
 
The Planning Ministry was now considering to seek the waiver of the deadline from the next week NEC meeting. 
 
The Central Development Working Party on Friday met again and approved number of new projects, including the ones received after the due date. Among these projects are essential track safety works on Khanewal-Shorkot – Faisalabad -Qila Sheikhupua – Shahdara Section in Multan & Lahore Divisions and Research and Development Center for additive manufacturing for aerospace and biomedical industry. 



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