Tuesday August 16, 2022

Cabinet restores five-day work week

Marriyum told the media that the federal cabinet decided to restore Saturday holiday in government offices and approved a comprehensive plan to gradually bring down electricity loadshedding to two hours by the end of the current month

By Muhammad Anis & News Desk
June 08, 2022
PM Shehbaz chairing the meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad on June 7, 2022. Photo: PID
PM Shehbaz chairing the meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad on June 7, 2022. Photo: PID

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a comprehensive plan to gradually bring down electricity loadshedding to two hours by the end of the current month and also restored Saturday holiday in government offices.

Briefing the media on decisions taken by the federal cabinet, Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said under the plan, the cabinet, which met with the Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif in the chair, had decided to divide the loadshedding duration plan into three parts.

She said the Prime Minister, putting aside all other engagements in the last two days, had focused on efforts to meet electricity shortages in the country and an emergency plan was chalked out which was approved by the cabinet. In this connection, she said, the government added 2871MW of electricity from four power generation plants to the national grid, reducing the loadshedding to three and a half hours from June 6 to 15. “Another 600MW will also be added to the national grid after making the Shahiwal coal power generation project functional, which will further cut the loadshedding duration to three hours,” she maintained.

She said the K-2 power generation project in Karachi would be made operational between June 25 and 29 to reduce outages to two and a half hours. “The loadshedding will come down to two hours after the start of 600MW of power generation from another coal power plant on June 30. All the administrative issues to make the projects operation have been addressed,” she added.

The minister said the cabinet had also discussed how to switch the country gradually to renewable energy, like solar and wind energy. “As an energy conservation plan, the cabinet also approved a 40pc reduction in the fuel quota of cabinet members, government departments and government officials. Originally, there was a proposal to reduce the quota by 33pc for government officials only. The cabinet also restored five working days a week, from Monday to Friday, with two holidays on Saturday and Sunday, to meet the challenging situation,” she added.

The cabinet, she said, also constituted a committee to assess the impact of work from home on Friday. “A sub-committee will present its report on work from home on Friday in the next meeting of the cabinet,” she said, adding that the measures would help save $386 million (Rs77 billion) annually after reducing the import of petroleum products. She said provinces had been instructed to switch on streetlights on alternate days, whereas a proposal of early closure of markets would be discussed with all relevant stakeholders.

She said the cabinet had also approved running a national awareness campaign about energy conservation. Similarly, the cabinet imposed a ban on the purchase of official vehicles, except ambulances and vehicles for education purposes. “A proposal of early closure of markets was also taken up but it was noted that a decision would be taken after consultation with chief ministers and taking up the issue at the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC),” she maintained.

Marriyum Aurangzeb said the country was currently facing a shortfall of 4600MW of electricity as the previous PTI government had failed to complete power projects within the stipulated time, which included the Trimmu Power Station, Karot Hyhdro Power Project and Shanghai Electric Power Plant at Sahiwal.

Minister for Communications Maulana Asad Mahmood said that all coalition partners were taking the ownership of all “unpopular and difficult” decisions, particularly in the economic sector to bring the country out of crisis.

Prime Minister’s Adviser on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira said the cabinet had observed that previously subsidy on petroleum products was the same for the elite and the poor but now there would be a targeted subsidy.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has halved his security convoy in view of the current situation. The number of vehicles on the security duties of ministers has also been halved.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also expressed his displeasure over the use of official vehicles by government employees despite receiving a hefty petrol allowance. Sources said the Prime Minister was informed that grade-20 officers had been receiving Rs60,000, grade-21 officers Rs75,000 and grade-22 Rs90,000 as a petrol allowance monthly despite using official vehicles. He directed the cabinet division secretary to either withdraw official vehicles or the allowance to the bureaucracy. “Tough decisions should be taken to cope with the situation. We should adopt austerity to teach it to our people,” he observed.

In a bid to deal with rising inflation in the country and save expenditure, the government has banned all government officials from making unnecessary foreign trips; renovation and construction of government offices; purchase of government vehicles; the quota of utility bills of government workers decreased by 10pc; hi-tea, lunches and dinners at government offices banned; medical treatment abroad for government officials banned; withdrawal of vehicles or allowances to government employees while meetings would be held virtually.

Meanwhile, the capital administration has issued guidelines that no wedding party can continue after 10:00 pm. Only one dish would be allowed in the wedding ceremony. The Capital Police have been informed about the decision.