Cabinet focuses on austerity

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THE Federal Cabinet, which met in Islamabad on Tuesday with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the chair, decided to

introduce a number of austerity measures, beginning with the top and restoring Saturday as a holiday for the public sector.

Briefing the media on decisions taken by the federal cabinet, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said the meeting approved a comprehensive plan to gradually bring down electricity load-shedding to two hours by the end of the current month.

No doubt, the present Government, from day one, conceived and introduced measures aimed at addressing fundamental ills of the economy and also providing relief to the inflation-ridden people.

However, its hands were tied because of political upheavals, judicial restraints and legal/constitutional hiccups, which are now taking a back stage, allowing the authorities concerned to focus on problems that are pushing the country towards a default.

After taking some politically difficult decisions for the sake of revival of the economy, the cabinet is now rightly focusing on the energy crisis as the economy cannot be salvaged by merely contracting more loans from global lenders; rather a salutary environment is needed to spur economic activities and industrial production.

The Information Minister gave a detailed plan aimed at addressing issues facing power plants and a practicable schedule to bring long hours of load-shedding down to about two and a half by the end of this month.

During the previous tenure of PML(N), the electricity shortage was caused due to a huge gap between generation and demand and, therefore, it took several years to increase the generation capacity to match the peak demand.

Now the capacity is there and the country is even surplus in generation but, unfortunately, due to bad management, we are forced to request Iran to increase the volume of electricity exports to Pakistan.

It may also be pointed out that some vested interests launched a scathing propaganda campaign against K-2 and K-3 nuclear power plants in Karachi but their timely completion is adding a huge 2,200 MW of electricity to the national grid.

The present Government is there for a short duration but still it is planning for medium and long term perspective to resolve the power crisis comprehensively.

This was evident from the discussion of the cabinet meeting on ways to switch the country gradually to renewable energy, like solar and wind energy.

As for restoration of two-day week-end, it is hardly likely to have any worthwhile impact on electricity and petrol consumption and the decision has apparently been taken under pressure and non-cooperation of the sluggish administrative machinery that is not attuned to work with Shehbaz speed.

The idea of ‘work from home’ is also absurd as those who are not paying their proper attention to official work despite being under direct supervision of the senior are unlikely to deliver from home.

A Committee has been formed to look into this and other proposals apparently aimed at saving expenditure but the Government must not fall prey to slow motion plans that could badly impact upon quality and delivery of service which is already wanting.

A proposal for 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 the National Economic Council (ECNEC).

In fact, there is also a need to take the business community on board as similar decisions taken in the past could not be implemented because of stiff resistance by the trading community.

The Prime Minister has rightly observed that senior officers are drawing huge money as monetization of transport facility but are also misusing official vehicles.

This corrupt practice has been going on for a long time but no successive government could take any concrete measures to save money on this account.

As officers are unlikely not to misuse transport facility, the only viable option is to withdraw the facility of monetization for all.

The decision to restrict foreign visits and ban treatment abroad would also send a right message to the people of Pakistan.

 

 

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