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ISLAMABAD: The federal government is to categorize different Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) with reference to their risk assessment, aimed at distinguishing advocacy groups and NGOs, sources close to Minister for Economic Affairs told Business Recorder.

The Economic Affairs Division (EAD), sources said, will revisit its draft policy for NGOs in the light of suggestions given by different members of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet at a recent meeting.

The ECC members, sources said, maintained that the new policy should be formulated in a way that it should also be helpful in the development of the country’s social sectors.

Salient features of the proposed policy were highlighted as follows: (i) policy objective to harness potential of NGOs sector for socioeconomic development and to ensure transparency and accountability; (ii) clarity on policy applicability and definition of NGO/NPO; (iii) eligibility which includes 2-year work experience, valid registration as NPO and letter of commitment from donor; (iv) simplified process of submission of application and time-limit based process of approval; (v) signing of MoU, its extension and terminations; (vi) clarity on prohibitions and obligations, its reporting, transparency and disclosure, anti-state activities, prohibited areas, staff watch etc; (vii) monitoring & oversight includes regular submission of reports, audited accounts and on-site special inspection commissioned by EAD; and (viii) exemption from policy for 6 months on grounds of national or regional emergency.

On June 16, 2021, during the ensuing discussion, Finance Minister appreciated the initiative and observed that the donors should consult the Government of Pakistan (GoP) for funding the priority areas as identified by the GoP. He stated that the Government must identify the gap and prioritize few sectors every year and then suggest to the donors to work in those priority sectors.

The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr. Ishrat Hussain opined that the NGO sector was very important for socioeconomic development of the country in the contemporary environment. However, there should be difference between advocacy groups and the NGOs working for socio-economic development. Therefore, the EAD should categorize different NGOs with reference to their risk assessment. These views were supported by the Minister for Energy, Hammad Azhar with the rationale that it will bring off-budget interventions on record. The Minister for Maritime Affairs suggested giving some tax breaks to donor for promotion and record keeping.

The Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Dr Reza Baqar stated that in order to facilitate the banks/financial institutions up to date data of NGOs should be kept on the web site of the EAD. Whenever a new applicant is registered, it should be immediately reflected on the web site. Likewise, cancellation of the NoC of any NGO may also be immediately posted on the web site. He further stated that suggestions/recommendations made by the SBP in October 2020 to the EAD about NGOs may also be considered.

According to sources, additions to be incorporated in the proposed policy in the light of suggestions made by the ECC members would also be presented to the ECC next month.

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