PM announces austerity drive as IMF deal reaches ‘final stage’

Shehbaz Sharif says Rs200 billion to be saved annually by slashing govt expenses n All cabinet members surrender salaries, perks



ISLAMABAD    -   The federal cabinet Wednesday decided to voluntarily surren­der their salaries, use of luxury vehicles, and allowances as per austerity plan of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. 

Announcing the decision at a news conference after Federal Cabinet meeting in Islamabad this evening, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said it will save 200 billion rupees to bring eco­nomic stability in the country. 

He said all members of the fed­eral cabinet have voluntarily surrendered their salaries and perks and privileges under the austerity plan.

The prime minister said the cabinet members will pay their electricity, gas and other utility

bills themselves and no one of them will use luxury cars.

A committee headed by the Interior Minister will decide about giving security cars to any high official. He said im­port of luxury items and vehi­cles will be completed banned till June next year. Giving further details of the austerity plan, the Prime Minister said no cabinet member or other high official will use five star hotels for stay during foreign tours. He said all ministries, departments and di­visions will cut 15 percent of their expenditures.

Shehbaz Sharif said online and video link meetings will be encouraged to avoid travel ex­penditures for this purpose. He said offices will open at 7:30 in the morning during summer, to save electricity.

Under the austerity plan, there will be single dish rule for weddings and other gatherings.

The prime minister said gov­ernment houses occupied by retired officers will be vacated and this land will be used for homeless people. He said gov­ernment officers will not be giv­en more than one plot.

The federal cabinet has also decided to make public the re­cord of Toshakhana gifts.

The Prime Minister also an­nounced to send a letter to the President on behalf of the fed­eral cabinet that the office of the President has nothing to do with the announcement of date for elections in provinces.

Answering a question, the Prime Minister said Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pays his expenditure from his own pocket. Regarding a ques­tion about size of the feder­al cabinet, he said the coalition partners are seriously ponder­ing upon this and good news will come soon in this regard. 

The prime minister further announced that a single trea­sury account would be estab­lished. For the purpose of power and gas saving, the government offices would start functioning from 7.30 a.m. during the sum­mer season while power-saving items would be used in the offic­es. At the Federal Government level, no division, unit, district, or tehsil would be created for administrative purposes. The government servants would not be allotted more than one plot, while a committee would pres­ent a plan of selling out the pa­latial official residences con­structed during the British era, in a transparent manner, fetch­ing a handsome amount for the cash-strapped national exche­quer, he added.

PM Shehbaz said during cer­emonies and official meetings, a single dish would be used ex­cept for foreign dignitaries, while in the 2023-24 fiscal bud­get, extra measures would also be announced, including steps to reduce losses of the state en­terprises. He said the cabinet members should be appreciat­ed for their sacrifice and good­will gesture for their decision over salaries and privileges.

The prime minister also ap­pealed to the Chief Justice of Pa­kistan and all the high court CJs and provincial chief ministers to take similar decisions un­der their jurisdiction. He also warned that the energy conver­sation plan was not being fully implemented and they would be forced to take steps to en­force it.

About Toshakhana, the prime minister said the cabinet had decided that a gift worth $300 (Rs 80,000) could be retained and others would be deposit­ed in the Toshakhana while the record in that regard would be published on the website for the information of the general pub­lic. An independent third party would make the evaluation of the gifts, he added.

To a question, the prime min­ister said there was no short­age of wheat and flour in the country as PASCO had already imported wheat and the situ­ation in the provinces should also improve. He elaborat­ed that during the mini-bud­get, the government decided to tax luxury goods in order to protect the common man who had already been burdened with the price hike. He said the agreement with the Inter­national Monetary Fund (IMF) was in the final stages and hoped that it would be final­ised soon as all the conditions had been met.

The prime minister said the people could experience the price hike as the subsidies were slashed, and the government was still working hard to save the poor people.

Poverty, he said, had unfortu­nately increased but they were trying to overcome it.

The prime minister said he did not want to peep into the past, but wanted to remind the nation that during the last 75 years, the middle and poor classes always rendered sacri­fices for the country whether it was the war of 1965, earth­quakes or floods.

During the last 75 years, the governments had increased their expenditures and bur­dened the poor, on the other hand, the elite class and well-off people, no doubt, had also con­tributed to the country, but they had not done so much as was re­quired. The prime minister re­gretted that the free treatment facility for the poor during the PML-N government was ended by the subsequent regimes.

He resolved that despite cer­tain issues, the coalition govern­ment, with the support of the nation, would steer the country out of the current problems.

He stressed upon collective ef­forts by all if they wanted the country to move on the path of progress and prosperity by re­alizing the vision of Quaid-e-Azam, adding that all the insti­tutions had been working under the ambit of the Constitution in that regard. 

In response to a question, he said the armed forces had also given a positive response to the austerity measures. Replying to a query, he said in a veiled ref­erence to PTI Chairman Imran Khan that in the past, he used to claim to return back 300 billion dollars of the country stashed away in the Swiss and UK ac­counts. He said such a question should have been raised during Imran Khan’s three-and-a-half-year tenure.

The prime minister said Imran Khan Niazi had misused funds collected for charitable purpos­es and was caught red-handed.

He sold out a watch bearing a model of ‘Khana Ka’aba’ in the market instead of depositing it in the Toshakhana. Moreover, he duped the nation with the pro­duction of a fake receipt. The gift was given as a token of esteem for the entire nation, he added. About holding of elections in two provinces, the prime min­ister said he would follow the Constitution as the relevant fo­rums would decide it.

PM Shehbaz, responding to a question, said he would write a letter to the president on his di­rection with regard to holding of elections in the two provinc­es. He regretted that some nine months back, the president was also involved in the disso­lution of the assembly, which they viewed as an unconstitu­tional step on his part.

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