The federal government’s abject failure in dealing with the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award has been on display since 2013. Meetings to discuss and reformulate the distribution formula have been cancelled ad nauseam and the continuous extension of the seventh NFC Award has allowed for provincial governments to (rightly) complain of not receiving their fair share. But holding back Rs117 billion because of not generating enough revenue is only further evidence that the entire process needs to be reconsidered.

The 18th amendment devolved important sectors of governance such as health and education down to the provinces, which means that provincial governments have to use these funds for important developmental work. But using a population-based formula to calculate the share of each province is not the most representative method – important factors such as developmental needs of specific areas and direct contribution to revenue are only two examples of other factors to consider.

In any case, there is an argument to be made for the federal government to step back and let the provinces decide the portions for themselves, in order to remove the threat of bias or partisan interests from any political party at the helm of affairs.

A federation is only as strong as its weakest parts and the current revenue distribution system is doing nothing for the smaller provinces in terms of bringing them at par with Punjab and Sindh. KPK and Balochistan must be awarded a greater portion, but to do this the government must first start discussion on the eighth award. But with the way things currently stand, it is unlikely that the federal government will make any changes in the existing state of affairs.