Austerity sans elite        

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THE very fact that the Monitoring Committee to oversee the implementation of austerity measures held its first meeting promptly and also considered ways and means to expand the scope of austerity drive is reflective of the determination on the part of the Government to make the exercise meaningful and successful. Its meeting held under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar proposed withdrawal of car facility to the heads of parliamentary standing committees besides exploring the possibility of holding online meetings of the committee to save substantial expenditure.

In a related development, the caretaker Government of Punjab has taken a lead in deciding to implement austerity measures adopted by the federal government with Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his cabinet colleagues vowing to set an example regarding austerity. However, the plan approved by the Prime Minister/Federal Cabinet is unlikely to produce the desired results until and unless other stakeholders including the judiciary and the defence forces also decide to replicate the measures in their institutions in view of precarious financial conditions of the country. Already, there are concerns that the Government has conveniently ignored some of the recommendations of the National Austerity Committee (NAC) concerning MPs, judges and bureaucrats.

It was in this backdrop that the implementation committee has emphasized that the decision to withdraw use of luxury vehicles by the cabinet members and government officials be implemented with no exemption in any case. It is also important to note that the NAC worked on an emergent basis in finalizing its recommendations but the cabinet division is taking too much time in even notifying the approved measures.

There are also a number of other proposals submitted by the NAC that remain un-approved by the cabinet despite the fact that their implementation would make the austerity drive more effective and relevant in the prevailing circumstances. These should not be thrown into the dust bin and must be considered by the next cabinet meeting. It is also hoped that other provinces, state institutions and heads of organizations would implement similar measures on a priority basis to send a positive message to the people about their contribution to the austerity campaign.