Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presided over a recent meeting of the monitoring committee on implementation of austerity measures that revealed the government’s austerity measures were largely ignored by cabinet members, senior bureaucrats, and even the judiciary.
The meeting revealed that more than half of the posh cars given to cabinet members, parliamentary secretaries, and chairmen of standing committees had not been returned to the cabinet division in charge of the federal government’s central pool.
In addition, despite the federal government’s February approval of an austerity plan, a large number of senior bureaucrats continued to drive official sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and sedans with engines larger than 1800cc.
The senior judicial and parliamentary forums were also noted at the meeting as not adhering to the austerity policy. The meeting did not cover the implementation of austerity measures in the armed forces.
By planning a three-day retreat at the historic Takht-i-Babri (Kallar Kahar) for a workshop on “Strategic Roadmap for the Petroleum Sector,” the Petroleum Division has gone one step further in defying austerity measures.
The entire petroleum division and its affiliated departments from Islamabad are anticipated to participate, as have between 40 and 80 executives from the public sector’s oil and gas entities and companies that have travelled as far as Karachi and Quetta.
All executives have been instructed to pay for lodging, logistical support, and travel out of the respective entities’ accounts in order to spread out the costs. The strategic roadmap development workshop would be an invitation-only event for petroleum division organisations, according to spokesperson for the petroleum division, retired Captain Shahbaz.
He said there would be “bare minimum expenses,” but he wouldn’t say how much it would cost in total. The extravagance of the retreat is further questioned by the fact that some businesses, like OGDCL and others, have sizable conference rooms inside their structures.
A compliance report informed the meeting, presided over by Mr. Dar, that only 14 of the 30 luxury vehicles given to officials had been returned. The cabinet division was ordered to strictly carry out the decision to retrieve the luxury vehicles within three days after the meeting expressed concern over the non-return of the remaining luxury vehicles.
The decision to discontinue the use of security vehicles was also discussed at the meeting, and it was decided to carry out the decision in letter and spirit.
The meeting expressed grave concern about some officials’ use of SUVs and sedans with engines larger than 1800cc and ordered all authorities to immediately stop this practise.
The task of approaching the superior judiciary to propose the implementation of austerity measures in the judiciary fell to the ministry of law and justice. The ministry was also instructed to speak with the speaker of the National Assembly and the chairman of the Senate to suggest holding all meetings via teleconference to save time and money.
According to the ministry of interprovincial coordination, similar austerity measures have already been proposed to provincial governments in each province.
In addition to discussing working hours, the meeting decided that the new office hours would be 7.30 am to 2.30 pm Monday through Thursday and up to 12.30 pm on Friday, beginning on the first of Ramadan and to be followed in the summer as decided by the cabinet.
Rana Tanveer Hussain, the minister of federal education and professional training, Azam Nazeer Tarar, the minister of law and justice, Qamar Zaman Kaira, the prime minister’s advisor on Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir affairs, Tariq Bajwa, the special assistant on finance for the prime minister, Tariq Mahmood Pasha, and federal secretaries and senior officers were all present at the meeting.