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Cabinet addresses real issues

THE Federal Cabinet, at its meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, took several important decisions including a Rs. 278 billion National Agriculture Emergency Programme, a bill to slash the “entertainment and gift budget” of the prime minister, ministers and senior officers, reimbursement of Rs. 2.5 billion to gas consumers who had received inflated bills last month and decided that heads of regulatory bodies, corporations and attached departments of the ministries will be selected on merit and a preliminary committee headed by the respective minister will oversee the process.
The decisions of the cabinet are reflective of its commitment to austerity in the backdrop of financial crunch that the country is facing at the moment, concern for welfare of the people, good governance and development of agriculture as part of the efforts to help country stand on its own feet economically. Approval for reimbursement of Rs. 2.5 billion to gas consumers is also an acknowledgement that consumers were wronged and it is hoped that things would not end at that but steps would be taken so that bills related problems of consumers of WAPDA and gas consumers are addressed forever. We have been hearing about transparency in issuance of bills but still inflated bills are a routine and at times this has been done with the tacit approval of the Govt to show improvement in revenue collection by distribution companies and gas companies or some consumers are penalized by meter readers for their vested interests. Merit-based selection of heads of various institutions is a key to good governance and service delivery but these have so far been appointed by successive governments on whimsical basis and as a result the institutions have suffered badly. It has been practice since long to run different organizations on adhocism and as a consequence the process of institution building was reversed and in many cases even best of the institutions were turned into moribund organizations. As for agriculture programme, it was need of the hour in view of the fact that despite being an agrarian country, Pakistan was still importing agricultural commodities and a case in point is import of $4 billion worth of edible oil despite announcements of various govts in the past to lay focus on local production of oil-seeds. We have fertile land, one of the elaborate irrigation systems in the world and hardworking farming community but we have not been able to realize true agricultural potential of country because of lack of clear-headed policies, consistencies and required support for farmer. There are no details of plan but one expects Govt to address issues like rising cost of inputs, lack of adaptation to new technology, lack of awareness and availability of good quality seeds, agricultural research, availability of credit and above all proper marketing and export of agricultural products and commodities.