Hard times demand austerity. Yet, despite the government’s tall claims of austerity, next year’s budget for the upkeep and maintenance of the Prime Minister House’s gardens is roughly Rs20 million, a 39% increase from the previous year’s budget.
The allocation has increased the total budget of the Prime Minister House’s gardens from Rs14.33 million in 2011-12 to Rs19.92 million in 2012-13 and itself speaks volume of lavish spending by the government.
Interestingly, the allocation has been made despite an official announcement that the premier will soon vacate the PM House, which is located on a hill overlooking Islamabad, and shift to a smaller house to observe ‘simplicity’ and austerity.
Finance Minster Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had announced in his budget speech that the PM House will be transformed into an international institute of advanced studies and the premier would relocate to a smaller residence.
According to details, the Prime Minister’s Estate Gardens will be maintained by as many as 73 gardeners. The combined salaries of these gardeners, including allowances, come up to Rs18.5 million for 2012-13; whereas last year, these gardeners only cost Rs13.31 million.
The lavish spending is not the only exception, as one can literally find hundreds of such heads while going through the voluminous ‘Pink Book’, containing every detail of the budgetary allocations except for the defence budget.
As if the extravagant spending on the PM’s ‘royal garden’ was not enough, the government has allocated another Rs37.4 million to be spent on the conveyance and motorcars of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. Again the allocation is Rs12.7 million or 51.4% higher than the previous year’s budget.
Out of that amount, Rs20.5 million has been earmarked for domestic travel and transport expenses of the premier, which has also increased by 52% or Rs7 million from the previous year’s budget.
For repair and maintenance of these expensive vehicles, a sum of Rs11 million has been allocated, which is Rs5 million or 83% higher than this year’s budget.
In addition to that, the government has allocated Rs15 million in the Cabinet Division budget for repair and maintenance of cars, mostly used by the premier. Some of these pool vehicles are also used by military officials and top politicians, including former prime ministers Mian Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
Interestingly, despite a ban on the purchase of new vehicles, the government has allocated Rs2 million for the PM House to purchase a new vehicle, according to the budget documents.
For purchasing plants and machinery for the PM’s House, a sum of Rs0.1 million has been earmarked while another amount of Rs0.2 million will be spent on repair and maintenance of machinery and equipments.
The government has announced an Rs2.96 trillion budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It will borrow Rs1.18 trillion to fill the gap between its income and the proposed size of the budget. A whopping Rs702.8 million has been allocated for meeting the expenses of the PM’s House — an 28.6% or Rs156.2 million increase from the previous year’s budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2012.
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