Presentation on “18th Amendment: Rhetoric versus Reality” by Ms. Asiya Mahar, Assistant Research Officer was organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Islamabad on March 12, 2015 at IPRI Conference Hall.
Key points of presentation are mentioned below:
• 18th amendment became an act of parliament on April 19, 2010. It includes 102 amendments to various sections of the Constitution including the deletion of the Concurrent Legislative List and the addition of subjects to Part II of the Federal Legislative List.
• The government constituted an 18th Amendment Implementation Commission on May 4, 2010 to work on its implementation. During 2010-11, the Commission finalized a detailed roadmap for devolution of 34 federal ministries and divisions.
• The devolution was done in three phases, and 17 Ministries were devolved.
• According to reports by the government, provincial governments have made satisfactory progress, and all relevant ministries have been devolved from the federal level. To a large extent, the relocation of human resource has been completed and the provinces have received ownership of majority of federally run development projects.
The challenges that surfaced during post-devolution period are:
• The levels of provincial readiness needed to cope with changes were unevenly spread and the reallocation of human resources also presented challenge.
• The future of 61,231 federal government employees who have been moved from the federal to provincial domain on deputation basis remains uncertain.
• Implementation commission identified a total of 232 projects under the ministries that were to be devolved. Of these, only 166 have been devolved to the provinces and decisions on others are pending.
• Article 164 demands that the Council of Common Interest meets once every 90 days and the National Economic Council twice a year; the meetings are needed to be convened as per schedule.
• Mechanism for the collection of resources by provincial governments is yet to be introduced. Although 18th Constitutional Amendment envisaged a formula for distribution of financial resources through 7th National Finance Commission Award however the allocations are being made under Non-Developmental Expenditure.
• As per the 18th Amendment, some key ministries are still to be devolved to the provinces.
Post 18th amendment changes in the HEC status were discussed, which are:
• 18th amendment added ‘standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions’ to the Federal Legislative List II. The amendment did not, however, touch two items on Federal Legislative List Part I – ‘Federal agencies and institutes created for the purpose of doing research, for professional or technical training, or for the promotion of special studies,’ and ‘Education with respect to Pakistani students in foreign countries and foreign students in Pakistan.’
• The functions of the HEC were not completely devolved to the provinces since some of its functions were handed over to five different ministries at the federal level with only few subjects left to be handled by HEC.
• The federal government placed the HEC under the Ministry of Professional and Technical Training. Prior to the 18 Amendment, HEC worked directly under the Prime Minister, and HEC chairman was equivalent to a federal minister in status.
To effectively implement 18th amendment, following recommendations are suggested as a way forward:
• Capacity constraints within provincial governments should be addressed.
• Implementation phase should be completed including participatory and open decision making process; seeking of technical advice, and careful planning.
• Anomalies Cell established to deal with problems related to execution of 18th Amendment should be institutionalized.
• Appropriate institutional arrangements at federal level should be created. Two kinds of institutional entities are desirable; one which is representative of the federation and second that carries out effective inter-provincial linkages and coordination.
• The success of reforms hinges on appropriate domestic technical capabilities. Therefore, the provinces should strengthen existing policy units.
• Addressing core constraints facing the state is the key. Without paying attention to resolving core issues such as accountability, patronage, merit, arbitrariness in decision making and policy vacillation; devolution cannot come to fruition.
• 18th amendment will not bring any tangible change in the power structure of governance of the country until bureaucratic reforms are introduced.
• Amendment demands capacity building of all the provincial institutions and it would not be possible without carrying out due reforms in the structure of civil services.
• There should be national regulatory authorities to monitor provincial compliance with national minimum standards.