In a major policy shift, the government agreed on Thursday to amend the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority Act to allow provinces to generate electricity to meet their needs. According to sources, the federal government accepted a demand of the provinces to devolve power generation at a meeting of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI) presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and attended by the four chief ministers.Under the Nepra Act, a province needs federal government�s approval to set up a power plant of more than 50MW capacity and, according to the provinces, this hindered their efforts to meet their increasing power requirements. The sources said the meeting agreed in principle to allow provinces to seek foreign investment in the power sector and also to manage their own tariff which hitherto had been within the federal government�s purview. �To bring in all these changes in the power sector the government needs to amend the Constitution,� an official said. On objections raised by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, the CCI postponed privatisation of nine power distribution companies and three generation companies and decided that the provincial governments should be consulted on the issue. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister�s Secretariat, the council approved the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) Bill, 2010, but rescheduled consideration of the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Amendment Bill, 2010, till its next meeting. It accepted the legal position brought out by the Punjab government regarding interpretation of Article 157 of the Constitution. The article allows the federal government to construct hydroelectric and thermal power generation installations in any province, but Punjab government had been arguing that the provincial government concerned should be consulted on such projects from the conception stage. HIGHER EDUCATION: According to the sources, at the insistence of the provinces the council approved a proposal to let the federal government continue to fund universities till the next National Finance Commission (NFC) award due in 2014-15. They said that this meant that the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had been put on hold. The government wanted to shift the burden of higher education to the provinces by devolving the HEC. The funding of universities through the HEC was at the centre of a recent controversy over its devolution. According to the official handout, the council considered the report of a committee comprising the federal finance secretary and four provincial chief secretaries on financing beyond June 30 this year of the activities devolved or being devolved to the provinces. It was decided that the financing for the activities devolved would be borne by the provinces. The federation will provide financing for vertical programmes of the health and population sectors. All provincial projects except those being carried out under presidential and prime minister�s directives would be financed by the provinces.
By: Dawn News