In a major development, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has unveiled austerity measures finalised during a federal cabinet meeting to save Rs200 billion as the country reels with daunting economic challenges, with inflation rocketing and the rupee plummeting the country can no longer afford imports.
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday flanked by cabinet members, the premier announced that the ministers and adviser to the prime minister have "voluntarily" decided not to take salaries from the government in order to save millions from the national exchequer.
The austerity measures, he further said, are a priority for the coalition government and the ongoing situation also demands the nation as a whole cut down their expenses and move towards a simple lifestyle.
He appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, chief justices of all high courts, the lower courts, and the chief ministers of all four provinces to the federal government's measures.
The prime minister said that it was crucial for the leaders to adopt the austerity measures as the country is facing an uphill task on the economic front.
Car allowances for government officers who already have official vehicles will be discontinued;
Premier’s press conference comes, two days after the National Assembly unanimously approved the government’s much-needed Rs170 billion ‘mini-budget’ — a move mandatory for seeking a $1.1 billion tranche of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.
The prime minister said that the government passed the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2023 to meet the IMF's preconditions, but noted that the inflation was rising due to the Washington-based lender's demands.
PM Shehbaz said that the talks with IMF were in the final phase and the government would soon strike a deal with the lender. "Unfortunately, as the subsidies have ended, inflation will rise."
The premier said that the centre would take the country out of the economic crisis with the help of the "elders and the nation".
In response to a question, the premier — without naming Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran — said that a person would claim that politicians have kept billions of dollars abroad in Swiss accounts.
"This person [Imran Khan] would say that he will bring that money back. I wish that the person who made these claims, was questioned back when he was in power," the prime minister said.
In response to another question, he said that the government respects the superior court, but for how long would it keep its eyes closed when judges are "completely biased"?
The prime minister said that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in a trivial matter, while the court regularised Khan's 300 canal home.
"I, not as the prime minister, but as PML-N's head, have demanded that biased judges should not hear N-League's cases," PM Shehbaz stressed.
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