Senate panel objects to distribution of pool resources on population basis

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ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Thursday asked the federal and provincial governments to put an end to the practice of distributing divisible pool resources on the basis of population and attach more importance to the development of less developed areas.

The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Less Developed Areas presided over by Senator Usman Kakar said the government should stop distribution of resources on the basis of population because 71 per cent of the country’s areas were underdeveloped but they received less than 20pc of the budgetary allocations.

The meeting was called to deliberate on and review the operations of small and medium enterprises of the Ministry of Industries and Production working in various less-developed areas. The committee underlined the need for allocating more resources to these areas in the next budget.

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Mr Kakar regretted that despite being a cultural hub and blessed with mineral resources, areas of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata), interior of Sindh, Punjab (other than their major cities) and Balochistan were the least-developed areas.

“It is a pity. We should change this trend and the pattern of distributing funds on the basis of population must be curbed,” he said.

At present, for horizontal distribution of divisible pool taxes among the provinces under the National Finance Commission (NFC) 82pc weight is assigned to population, 10.3pc to poverty and backwardness, and 2.7pc to inverse population density.

On top of that, major uplift activities out of the federal and provincial development budgets were largely allocated to large population centres, a senator said.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Industries and Production Abdul Razak Dawood said that every area in the country and around the world had some skill or some specialty that could be promoted and the Ministry of Industries and Production was working tirelessly for this purpose.

He said the Tharparkar region would be completely transformed in the near future due to coal mining and the power plants being set up there.

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The committee was briefed on the industrial sectors being promoted in less-developed areas from Khyber to Karachi through initiatives like Aik Hunar Aik Nagar (Ahan), which seeks to promote the work of local artisans.

The members of the committee lauded the contribution of Ahan and stressed the need to remove all bottlenecks in its operations.

Senator Rahila Magsi said Ahan could organise a carnival at a park she owned in Tando Allahyar free of cost.

Senator Fida Muhammad said there were some enterprises in less-developed areas that were facing various difficulties. He cited the example of steel mills in Malakand Division, which was being shut down due to intervention from environmental agencies.

He said it was important for such enterprises to secure a no-objection certificate and put in place environmental mitigation measures before starting their operations because it was not advisable to create health problems for the locals. He said that closure of such industrial units was causing losses to the investors and leaving thousands without a livelihood. The government should intervene in such matters.

While speaking of Tharparkar, Senator Gian Chand said a policy should be formulated to promote the artisans there. Even though coal mining projects were coming up in Thar, the entire region had been cordoned off and no village there was getting electricity even though there was a main line that provided electricity to enterprises operating there, he added.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2019

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