LAHORE -  Punjab is hosting the fifth meeting of the 9th National Finance Commission here on Friday (today) amid high expectations of a breakthrough on several contentious issues hindering finalisation of the award for the last four years.

The 9th NFC Award has been in limbo since July 2015.The last NFC Award was signed in December 2009 when the PPP was in power. It had drastically increased the combined share of the provinces from the divisible pool.

The present government, however, is finding it hard to retain the previous arrangement due to severe financial crunch. It also wants to have an increased share of resources in view of the increased Federal responsibilities.

Federal Minister Asad Umer will brief the provinces on the current fiscal position of the Federal government and the economic issues facing the country.

He will also take the provinces into confidence over the ongoing negotiations with the IMF to seek loan from the international body.  The 9th NFC Award is most likely to be based on the sixth population census of 2017.

To be attended by the Finance Ministers of all the four provinces, provincial Finance Secretaries and their nominated non-statutory members, the stakeholders will deliberate on issues relating to the distribution of divisible pool among the federating units for the next five years.

Non-statutory members including Dr Salman Shah, Dr Asad Saeed, Musharraf Rasul, Mehfooz Ali Khan and Federal Finance Secretary and other concerned will also be in attendance. Country’s finance managers are also facing the tough challenge of thrashing out the issue of finance mainstreaming of the tribal region.

While the Centre is demanding to have an enhanced share of resources for the Tribal Areas, Sindh is opposed to the move.

It wants the Federal government to transfer its proportionate funding to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa instead of applying a cut on the share of provinces from the divisible pool.

Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will brief the meeting about the performance of the six working groups constituted during the last NFC meeting. 

Punjab, being head of the Working Group-I will share its recommendations on the Micro-Economic Framework and proposals for the new principles of revenue and expenditures to be adopted by all the provinces and the Federal government.

A Federal government official will present recommendations on vertical distribution of the taxes between federation and provinces.

Two working groups led by Balochistan will share their proposals on horizontal distribution of federal taxes amongst provinces and straight transfers.

The group led by Sindh government will suggest measures to simplify tax procedures and payment systems to facilitate businesses while the KPK group will come up with proposals regarding integration/merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Meanwhile, Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Jawan Bakhat Hashim on Thursday chaired a meeting of the Working Group-I which was attended by the Finance Secretaries and representatives of all four provinces.

The Minister shared the initial report of the Working Group with the members from the four provinces.  The Secretary Finance Punjab gave a comprehensive briefing to the members about the proposed revenue collection and expenditures under the 9th NFC Award and noted their objections.

The meeting also reviewed the preparation of the fifth meeting of the 9th NFC Award scheduled for Friday (today).

Briefing the meeting, Makhdoom Jawan Bakhat Hashim said that the initiatives taken by the PTI government practically proved that provincial boundaries were only an administrative division while role of each province was vital for the economic growth and prosperity of Pakistan.

He said that strong federation was guarantee to the stability of the provinces and the recommendations of the all members in NFC Award were equally important.

He hoped that the provinces will give due regard to the issues facing the Federation and respect the recommendations of each other in formulation of the 9th NFC Award.

He viewed that it was collective responsibility of the Federation and the federating units to reduce the budget deficit. Finance Minister believed that the real issue of Pakistan was not the unfair distribution of resources.

It was rather the irresponsible utilisation of the resources, he said, adding, that judicious usage of the resources could bring the country out of the financial crisis.