Comment by Faisal Ali Ghumman
LAHORE: Austerity is a precious gift of Almighty Allah on earth usually seen implemented in the west in every sphere of life with an aim to facilitate nations in achieving their living standards and quality of life.
Pakistan’s 70 years have passed and all state institutions are seen enjoying state protocols at the cost of national kitty and taxpayers’ money, rendering the 210 million souls at the mercy of poverty, unemployment and lawlessness.
Amid staggering internal and external loans worth billions of rupees, widening trade deficit, worsening fiscal position of the country and many other governance, security and economic challenges, Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) mulls to form his maiden federal government- the third democratic one in sequence side by side the concerns of pre-poll ‘manoeuvring’.
The so far photos released by the PTI media cell from Bani Gala Islamabad, Khan’s residence and expected PM’s Camp Office, depicts Khan’s televised promise to the nation to initiate austerity from his own.
A good number of ambassadors received by the prime minister-designate with a glass of water and a cup of tea, announcement of abandoning PM House and VVIP security protocols, and constitution of limited cabinet also apparently indicate Khan wishes to go by his word.
As per report published by UAE-based English Daily Gulf News, an amount of Rs1.85 billion is expected to be saved annually in case Khan-led government doesn’t use PM House. Of Rs1.85 billion, an amount of Rs980 million is usually spent on the security budget of the complex, Rs700 million for PM House staff, Rs150 million are spent on gifts for visiting dignitaries and guests, while Rs15 million on renovations and decoration.
Khan’s announcement to convert 800-Kanal PM House in a public sector university is generally described a good initiative to discourage decades-old luxurious culture.
The promise if fulfilled could save billions of rupees spent on exorbitant expenses in a country marred with economic woes.
People sitting in the powerful corridors opine that the austerity no doubt is need of the day subject to horrific widening gap between state income and expenditure, but it will not be easy to get simplicity implemented in letter and spirit and across the board.
The austerity beginning from the prime minister and his cabinet will take a considerable time to penetrate in the official lifestyles of powerful military, judiciary and civil bureaucracy.
It doesn’t seem easy to replace decades-old lifestyles of British colonial era in one go, but the PTI government can at least start it with the one state pillar, the Executive, to contain unbridled state expenses.
The curtailment of expenditures of all key offices like President House, PM House, Parliament, PM Secretariat, Governor’s Houses and federal and provincial ministries will be an easy step initially to start with.
The people of Pakistan should expect from Mr Khan to introduce absolute changes in the current governance model in the light of his global exposures and examples he used to quote at public forms several times.