ISLAMABAD: The wings of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar have been clipped in the wake of a Supreme Court (SC) ruling which implies that decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) should not be implemented without ratification from the cabinet.
To comply with the court order, the ECC – the economic decision-making body with Dar as chairman – agreed in its meeting held on August 29 to place all its fresh decisions before the cabinet for approval, officials say. It would now place eight decisions taken in the meeting for the cabinet’s nod.
The ECC agreed on giving permission to Pak Arab Fertilizer for the export of calcium ammonium nitrate, extension in the deadline for export of wheat and wheat flour, increasing the regulatory duty on wheat import and getting released a Pakistan National Shipping Corporation ship seized by South Africa due to alleged delay in clearing dues by Pakistan Steel Mills.
The ECC also approved an extension in the application of reduced withholding tax to non-filers of tax returns, initiation of negotiations between Bank Markazi Jamhouri Islamic Iran and the State Bank of Pakistan, re-lending policy for foreign loans and the import of gram.
In its directive, the Supreme Court had stopped the prime minister from unilaterally taking decisions on fiscal matters, which was also believed to be applicable to the powers of the ECC.
The ECC, despite being a panel of the cabinet, has been performing the roles of both the executive and the legislature.
After the current government came to power in mid-2013, Dar had sought from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a free hand, which the premier approved. This move restored the charter and mandate of the ECC, making it the final decision-making body for the country’s economic policy.
Following approval of the prime minister, the cabinet in its meeting on July 25, 2013 allowed Dar to implement the ECC decisions without cabinet’s ratification.
In the cabinet meeting, it was said that the restriction imposed by the then prime minister on March 13, 2009 requiring approval of ECC decisions by the cabinet did not serve the purpose of good governance and efficient decision-making.
The removal of bureaucratic red tape and speedy action to resolve vital economic issues were not possible if the ECC kept on operating in such a restricted environment, the meeting participants said.
The requirement of ratification of decisions of other committees of the cabinet would, however, remain intact.