ISLAMABAD: Contrary to the government’s tall claims of austerity, the budget for the next fiscal year has proposed an 18.8 percent increase in the non-development funds of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The government has allocated Rs1.171 billion for the PM Office in the year 2019-20 against the outgoing year’s revised estimate of Rs980 million.
According to a break-up of the allocation, a sum of Rs879 million has been reserved for employees’ expenses, Rs384 million for salaries, Rs207 million for payment to officers, Rs176 million for other staff members, Rs494 million for allowances, Rs400 million for regular allowances, Rs94 million for other allowances excluding transport allowance, 218 million for operating expenses and Rs26 million for employees’ retirement benefits.
A sum of Rs18 million has been allocated for grants, subsidies and write off loans, Rs1.5 million for transfers, Rs5.4 million for physical assets and Rs21 million for repair and maintenance.
Separately, the government has allocated Rs2.095 billion non-development funds for the Supreme Court against the outgoing fiscal year's revised estimate of Rs 1.964 billion.
According to its break-up, a sum of Rs1.655 billion has been allocated for employees’ expenses, Rs451.734 million for salaries, Rs311.567 million for payment to officers, Rs140.167 million for other staff members, Rs1203.426 million for allowances, Rs930.322 million for regular allowances, Rs272.104 million for other allowances excluding transport allowance, Rs288.270 million for operating expenses, Rs49 million for employees’ retirement benefits, Rs1 million for transfers, Rs44.020 million for physical assets and Rs31.050 million for repair and maintenance.
The Ministry of Finance later issued a clarification on the matter and said this news story "carried twisting and erroneous figures".
"It is clarified that allocation earmarked for the PM Office in the fiscal budget 2019-20 stood around Rs860.28 million. The misleading news item had attributed Rs1.17 billion amount as allocation made to the PM Office in the fiscal budget, showing a proposed increase of 19 per cent for the PM Office," read a statement issued by the Press Information Department.
"A wrong impression was created by adding allocated budget amounts of other department (NDMA) with the total amount set aside for the PM Office, which amounted to making mockery of the government’s austerity drive."
The ministry said the allocated budget for the NDMA was around Rs309 million and "this amount was wrongly added to the total budget amount allocated for the PM Office."
"The NDMA is a subordinate office which had separate allocation. For further clarification, the budget book (part 1 current expenditures) at page No 302 to page No 310, whereas its pages No 303 to 308 contained the exact figures about the PM Office. Pages from 308 to 309 had the details about the NDMA budget," read the statement.
"It is further clarified that during the fiscal budget 2018-19, the PM Office was allocated Rs1.11 billion but due to Prime Minister’s austerity drive, that office had only utilised Rs750 million out of the allocated amount, thus saving 32% in the total expenditures in the current fiscal year."
The finance ministry maintained that the current allocation of Rs860.28 million marked a reduction of 13 per cent in the PM Office's annual budget. "When compared with fiscal year 2014-15, the current allocation had been the lowest one," read the statement.
"For the first time in the history of the country, a Prime Minister had done away with his as well as members of his Cabinet discretionary powers by ending the discretionary funds of the PM Office which stood around Rs60 million."
"For the next fiscal year, the current expenditures of the federal government had been reduced to Rs431 billion from Rs480 billion, whereas the other precedent was freezing of the defence budget which was unprecedented."
The statement concluded with the assertion that "expenditures of PM Office had no relation with the person of Prime Minister, as he himself was bearing all his personal expenditures."