After the Chief Justice of Pakistan received salary increments in the last two years, President Arif Alvi has made a claim for a two-step raise for himself as well, which he believes to be justified demand as per the law of the country. If the amendment to the President’s Salary, Allowances and Privileges Act is approved by the cabinet, President Alvi will not only earn a maximum of Rs.1,229,190 per month, but will receive substantial arrears since the increment will be in effect from July 2021. Given our unending economic struggles, and the plight of the average citizen, such developments will be hard to stomach.
Currently, the President draws a monthly salary of Rs.846,550. If the amendment is approved by the cabinet—a reality we may have to come to terms with since the Finance Ministry has already endorsed this demand—his salary will be increased to Rs.1,024,325 with effect from July 2021 and Rs.1,229,190 with effect from July 2023. This seems to be an obnoxiously high number, even if the constitution contains provisions for such a hike, and it is unclear how the national kitty will be able to afford dispensing such a large amount when it is already overburdened.
A careful read of the Salary Allowances and Privileges Act will also reveal that certain expenses are already paid for. The President does not have to worry about costs of travelling, rising fuel prices, expenses pertaining to his residence or its maintenance, medical treatments, electricity, gas or water bills, and even enjoys certain tax exemptions pertaining to food items, tobacco, furniture, cars and more. Since the cost of living is reduced to almost nothing, one may question why such a drastic salary increase is deemed necessary in these pressing times. If it is only because the Chief Justice was awarded increments, many will likely conclude that this is more a matter of the maximisation of wealth. If we add the timing of this request, within the last few months of the President’s tenure, this perception will be given more credibility.
Should the cabinet approve this amendment, a significant chunk of money will be taken out of our national reserves, and allocated to the President in times when this money can be better spent on development projects, catering to government employees, and looking at public enterprises that are in urgent need of reform.