Revival of discretionary funds

Published: March 6, 2019
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Prime Minister Imran Khan’s one of the important decisions of banning the discretionary spending on parliamentarians’ schemes could not withstand the harsh political ground realities for more than six months. Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first cabinet meeting had decided to ban the use of discretionary funds of the President, the Prime Minister and MNAs in view of the new government’s austerity drive. The decision had been taken after the previous PML-N government had doled out billions of rupees to win over constituencies.

In order to meet these expenditures, the government has now diverted Rs24 billion from CPEC projects and other initiatives for discretionary spending on parliamentarians’ schemes. On February 19, the Ministry of Planning surrendered Rs24 billion in favour of the Cabinet Division to execute these projects.

Former prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo had first introduced the concept of discretionary spending with his Prime Minister’s Special Local Development Programme in 1985. After that every successive government used this avenue to win the loyalties of legislators. Spending on development projects is not a bad idea but a cavalier attitude towards the scarce resources of a poor country is lamentable, particularly when there is full realisation of wastage of money. The schemes to be financed out of the discretionary spending pool are not scrutinised in the manner other projects are vetted by the Planning Ministry. A legislator recommends a scheme, which is executed by the Pak PWD department through a contractor, often recommended by the legislator. This nexus allows siphoning off taxpayers’ money that PM Khan had promised to protect.

The government must review its decision. It is not only against the political ideology of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf but also a continuation of 1985’s Pakistan where taxpayers’ money was used to forward personal agendas.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2019.

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