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Thursday May 23, 2024

Surgery

By Dr Farrukh Saleem
June 18, 2023

Surgery becomes imperative when a medical condition poses an immediate threat to life. It becomes necessary after exhausting non-surgical treatment options without finding relief. Additionally, when medical conditions or diseases are progressively worsening over time, surgery becomes a crucial intervention. The gross external financing requirements for the fiscal year 2023-24 amount to a staggering $36.6 billion, presenting an alarming immediate threat. Over the course of our membership with the IMF since 1950, we have entered into 23 arrangements, highlighting the ineffectiveness of non-surgical treatment options. A decade ago, the budgetary allocation for debt servicing stood at Rs1,153 billion, whereas this year it has skyrocketed to Rs7,303 billion. This clear escalation indicates the progressive deterioration of the underlying financial condition.

Patient evaluation is now complete. It's decision time. Now is the time to select the appropriate surgical instruments and fulfil the need for additional specialists or staff during the procedure. Phase I: The federal government has 34 ministries, 48 divisions and more than 400 departments. Thirteen years ago, the 18th Amendment to the constitution of Pakistan was passed by the National Assembly. Almost everything has been devolved down to the provinces. All that we need at the federal level are five ministries: finance, foreign, communication, defence and revenue. The other 29 ministries would have to be surgically removed. There’s no other way out.

Phase II: This year, the federal government will be left with Rs6,887 billion after disbursing Rs5,276 billion to the provinces. Lo and behold, the federal government’s debt servicing stands at Rs7,303 billion. To be certain, public debt was not all spent in Islamabad so debt servicing must also be shared by the provinces. There’s no other way out.

Phase III: This year, the allocation for defence is Rs1,804 billion. Lo and behold, the federal government has nothing left after debt servicing. To be certain, it is not just Islamabad that is being defended so this allocation must be shared by the provinces. There’s no other way out.

Phase IV: The 90,000 vehicles owned and operated by the federal government have burnt Rs220 billion over the past four years. The British government operates the Government Car Service (GCS) that provides transportation services to government officials and ministers. The GCS operates under the control of the UK Cabinet Office and is part of the Civil Service. GCS has a pool of 86 vehicles. Surgically remove 89,914 vehicles from the federal government.

Phase V: The 200+ State Owned Enterprises (SOE) have lost Rs2,000 billion. The entire SOE ecosystem must be surgically removed from the government right away. Give them all away for free. The electricity sector has lost Rs2,500 billion. This sector must also be surgically removed from the government right away. The gas sector has lost Rs1,500 billion. This sector must also be surgically removed from the government right away. The so-called ‘Commodity Operations’ has lost Rs1,000 billion. Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (PASSCO) must also be surgically removed from the government right away.

Phase VI: Budget 2023-24 has allocated Rs950 billion for Islamabad which has two million residents and is 80 square miles. Islamabad only needs Rs50 billion. Do the surgery and save Rs900 billion.

Phase VII: BISP has been allocated Rs450 billion. Islamabad has less than 1.0 per cent of Pakistan’s population so 99 per cent of Rs450 billion must be disbursed out of provincial budgets. Do the surgery and save the patient.

It is crucial to remember that the decision between surgery and its potential consequences can be a life-or-death situation, and time is of the essence, slipping through our fingers.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. He tweets @saleemfarrukh and can be reached at: farrukh15@hotmail.com