Thursday May 30, 2024

No ‘unnecessary’ official trips, voluntarily salary cut: PM unveils host of austerity measures

PM Shehbaz says all luxury cars will be taken back from cabinet members and will be auctioned

By Web Desk
February 22, 2023

PM Shehbaz Sharif (centre) addresses a press conference in Islamabad, on February 23, 2023. — PID
PM Shehbaz Sharif (centre) addresses a press conference in Islamabad, on February 23, 2023. — PID

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.

Major austerity measures:

  • All federal ministers, state ministers, advisers, and special assistants have decided to voluntarily not take their salaries;
  • All ministers will pay their power, telephone, water, and gas bills through their own resources;
  • All luxury cars will be taken back from cabinet members and will be auctioned;
  • When necessary, ministers will be provided one vehicle for security;
  • Government officials will travel in economy class and their assistants will not go with them on official tours;
  • During foreign tours, cabinet members will not reside in five-star hotels;
  • All ministries, divisions, departments, sub-departments, and independent organisations' current expenditures will see a cut of 15%;
  • Principal accounting officers of ministries, divisions, departments, sub-departments, and independent organisations will adjust their expenses accordingly;
  • Government officials will not be allowed to buy luxury cars till June 2024;
  • Government officials will only hold official tours if obligatory;
  • Car allowances for government officers who already have official vehicles will be discontinued;

  • Cars provided to government officers for security will be taken back;
  • Interior ministry will decide which government officer gets security vehicles;
  • Zoom conferences will be prefered instead visiting countries;
  • No new department or division will be created, whether it be at the tehsil level or at the centre;
  • To save power and gas, offices will open at 7:30am and less power consuming appliances will be used;
  • Government officers will not be allotted more than one plot;
  • Law minister to head committee for shifting government officers to other places;
  • The committee will also inform cabinet about how they can sell the lands and generate billions of rupees;
  • Only one dish will be eaten at government meetings, tea and biscuit will be served at other meetings;
  • Prohibition of food will not be applicable to foreign dignitaries;
  • Single treasury account will be established;

  • Town houses will be constructed for ministers and government officers;
  • PM says centre, provinces to cut power supply of malls and markets if they don't shut down by 8:30pm; and
  •  Toshakhana gifts' details will now be available online.

'Inflation rising due to IMF's demands'

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.

'Biased judges'

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.