Dar promises 150% executive allowance

Impact of allowance will be Rs1.3 billion


Shahbaz Rana December 08, 2022
The delegation also told the finance minister that in case they are given the 150% executive allowance, or treated at par with the other blue-eyed officers, they were ready to forego their claim on an increase in salaries in the next budget. PHOTO: file

ISLAMABAD:

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday promised to end the financial discrimination faced by officers serving in the Pakistan Secretariat. After fresh details suggested that the annual impact of ending the injustice was Rs1.3 billion, the finance minister promised an award of 150% executive allowance within one week.

After Dar’s assurance, the officers belonging to the Economist Group, Technical Group, and Information Service Group ended their 13-day pen down strike until December 14th, the day on which the finance minister has promised that every officer from grade 17 to 22 serving in the Pak-Secretariat will be equally treated.

A delegation, comprising of representatives from the demonstrators, met with Dar at his office on Wednesday. After speaking to the delegates, the finance minister agreed that there was discrimination with respect to the executive allowance, but explained that the decision was taken before he took office, a participant of the meeting told The Express Tribune.

“The executive allowance will be granted to the officers working in the Federal Secretariat, President Secretariat, PM’s Office and ICT field administration in BPS-17 to BPS-22 at 1.5 times of basic pay with effect from July 1, 2022, in line with the allowance granted by all the provincial governments,” read the cabinet decision.

However, the finance ministry issued a tailor-made notification that mainly benefitted two service groups at the expense of others.

The three service groups observing the pen-down strike managed to affect the smooth function of the planning ministry and hamper the flow of critical information to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The economist group and technical groups remained absent from a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), causing embarrassment to the Planning Ministry for incomplete paperwork.

As a result, the ECNEC had to defer the final approval of two World Bank-funded projects, a Flood Response Emergency Housing project worth $1 billion ($500 million World Bank loan) and a $255 million Sindh Integrated Health and Population project due to incomplete paperwork.

Initially, the finance minister was under the impression that only 15% of the entitled officers were getting an executive allowance and that extending it to all officers serving at the Pak Secretariat would cost billions of rupees. The Pak Secretariat is the seat of the federal bureaucracy.

The delegation, however, informed Dar that the number of the deprived officers was around 600, out of 1700 officers, and that the annual impact of equal treatment will be Rs1.3 billion. The economist group officers claimed that as many as 1,100 officers were availing the executive allowance.

The regulation wing of the Finance Ministry, however, claims that about half of the total officers were already getting the executive allowance with an impact of Rs1 billion.

According to another participant of the meeting, “Our impression from the meeting was that the finance minister may lower the total benefit to a percentage where either the impact of accommodating the leftover officers will be neutral or minimum to treat all the officers equally.”

The discrimination can be gauged from the fact that two officers from the information group sitting next to Dar’s office were not getting the allowance, despite often working more than 12 hours and even weekends. However, officers from the other service groups, sitting next to the director general media office, were entitled to the allowance.

Similarly, in the planning commission, everyone starting from the post of section officer to the federal secretary was availing the executive allowance, but the officers serving as research assistants to the joint economic chief economist were deprived of the allowance – despite using executive authority in the matters of the development budget and the economic decision making.

The delegation also told the finance minister that in case they are given the 150% executive allowance, or treated at par with the other blue-eyed officers, they were ready to forego their claim on an increase in salaries in the next budget.

There are 197 officers from grade 17 to 21 from the economist and technical groups serving in various ministries. The net impact of giving them an executive allowance of 150% will be around Rs190 million per annum.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2022.

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