Austerity drive

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A day after hiking the prices of petroleum products by Rs 30, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Friday decided to launch an austerity drive by slashing the petrol quota of federal cabinet members and government employees.

Separately the provincial governments of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh also reduced the petrol quota of provincial ministers and government officers by thirty five percent and forty per cent respectively.

The country indeed is passing through difficult and challenging times. The soaring commodity prices at the international level including that of petroleum products and edible oil have only further complicated the situation.

Pakistan in fact is not the only country which is bearing the brunt of rising prices but countries such as Turkey are also struggling where the annual inflation rate jumped to a twenty four year high of 73.5 % in May.

Certainly this warrants some tough and difficult decisions to cope with the situation. The government will have to lead from the front by tightening its own belt and doing away with unnecessary expenditure.

Hence, austerity drive on the part of central and provincial governments is a step in the right direction but this must not remain confined to cut in petrol quota rather other unnecessary expenditures at the public sector departments must also be abolished and the resources saved through this process must be diverted to provide relief to the weak segments of the society.

A complete ban should be imposed on the purchase of new vehicles as well as refurbishment or renovation of offices which is a routine whenever a new government comes into power.

The political leadership will have to set the example of simplicity and avoid wastage of resources before expecting any sacrifice from the masses.

Most importantly, certain state owned enterprises are causing loss of hundreds of billions of rupees to the national kitty every year. It is time to either privatize them or revive them through public private partnership.

Stopping these leakages as well as doubling efforts to enhance the tax collection is the only way forward which will provide sufficient cushion to the government to extend relief to the poor masses in difficult times.