No more first-class flying for ministers, as Pakistan’s new cabinet starts to cut spending
ISLAMABAD: Discretionary funds for politicians have been abolished and ministers will no longer be allowed to travel first class, after Pakistan’s federal cabinet adopted a range of austerity measures during its meeting on August 24. The decisions were in keeping with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s pledge to cut government expenditure and improve the efficiency of state institutions, according to the government.
One of the biggest decisions was to abolish the discretionary funds previously available to presidents, premiers and members of parliament. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry described it as “a historic decision.” He added that the former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government spent PKR 51 billion in discretionary funds during the past year.
Khan had announced his intention to ban the funds, which he considers to be among the biggest sources of corruption, during one of his initial speeches after winning last month’s general elections. He also promised to strengthen the third tier of government, emphasizing the importance of local governments to improve the overall system of governance in the country.
Chaudhry also revealed that the prime minister will no longer use a special plane for foreign trips, and that Khan, cabinet members and other state officials will travel in business class, not first class.
He also promised to investigate the mass transit systems in Islamabad, Lahore and Multan. PML-N frequently highlighted these projects as evidence that it was working for the benefit of ordinary citizens. While the party’s leadership maintained that the projects were being carried out in a fair and open manner, Chaudhry said the new government will investigate and evaluate this claim.
He dismissed the idea that the new administration might shut down the public transportation services, but added that the operational costs of the buses and trains are too high and they are losing a lot of money. If any financial irregularities are discovered, he added, the Federal Investigation Agency will look into them.
Regarding the overall efficiency of government departments, Chaudhry said that there had been some debate among cabinet members about whether public servants should get Saturday as one of their weekly days off. After much deliberation, they decided that these state employees should work from 9am to 5pm. Chaudhry also noted that many public servants shorten their working day after leaving their offices for Friday prayers, but this would not be tolerated from now on.
In other decisions, the federal cabinet also decided to launch a massive urban tree-planting project in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta, emphasizing the importance of environmental projects in a country where many people die each year due to heatwaves. Ministers also decided to set up a task force to formulate a strategy for a major nationwide clean-up drive.
Responding to a question, Chaudhry said the prime minister had strongly reacted to news of power outages during the Eid holidays. He added that while the previous administration had spent a lot of money building power plants, the distribution network is not up to standard and needs upgrading.