The federal and provincial governments are making efforts to bring the nation’s economy back on rails, which has suffered immensely due to corruption and mismanagement by previous regimes. The trouble has been compounded by the reduced collection of revenue due to coronavirus pandemic and large-scale loss of jobs for Pakistanis working abroad. The PTI-led government, after it took power some two years ago, announced that it would practise austerity to steer the economy out of the choppy waters. Besides, the Imran Khan government has also brought in large amounts of foreign exchange in the form of aid and loan. It is, however, either difficult or premature to say how much of the austerity measures and foreign aid had helped the economy to come out of the woods.
The Punjab government has announced the continuation of its austerity drive into the current fiscal year. It aims to curb additional expenditures and maximise savings to avoid going for a supplementary budget. All departments are to limit their expenditure. The process of obtaining funds has been made more stringent. Government funds will not be provided for financing ministers’ and provincial legislators’ foreign visits. Foreign visits will be allowed only where they are absolutely necessary and only after clearance from the austerity committee and approval by the chief minister. Even then ministers and lawmakers will travel only in the economy class.
There will be a complete ban on medical treatment abroad, though where such treatment is necessary it will be exempted from the restrictions. There will be a complete ban on purchase of vehicles by departments. In exceptional cases, the Chief Minister can allow the purchase of a vehicle. Funds will continue to be provided to hospitals for treatment of Covid-19. Recruitments in government departments will be strictly on the basis of need. Ban on luxuries will continue to stay.
At the end of the day, the austerity measures should show concrete results and not exist on paper only.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2020.
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