PM Shehbaz Sharif announces slew of austerity measures to save Pakistan from economic challenges
A resumption of the IMF programme would also unlock other avenues of funding for Pakistan
Pakistan on Wednesday announced a raft of austerity measures like Cabinet ministers and advisors not drawing salaries and not staying at five-star hotels during foreign trips, as a desperate government attempt to pull the country out of its economic morass amidst mounting criticism against the ruling elite.
Pakistan, which is in dire need of funds as it battles a wrenching economic crisis, has received financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the past and is presently in discussions with the organisation to resume its loan programme.
An agreement on the ninth review of the programme would release over USD 1.1 billion. A resumption of the IMF programme would also unlock other avenues of funding for Pakistan.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced the decisions agreed upon in the Cabinet meeting which after a detailed discussion approved the measures to cut official expenditures.
"All Cabinet members and advisors have voluntarily decided that they will not draw salaries or any other benefits from the state treasury and also pay their utility bills," he said.
He said that Cabinet members would stop the use of luxury cars and travel in economy class and would not stay in five-star hotels during foreign trips. It would also apply to all government officers.
The premier also announced a gross 15 per cent reduction in the current expenditure of each federal government department and urged the provinces to follow the suit and cut expenditures. He also banned the use of luxury cars by cabinet members.
He also banned the purchase of all luxury items, including new cars till June 2024.
The prime minister said that the colonial period palatial official accommodation by district officers would be put to better use.
Other measures include the opening of government offices at 7.30 am in summer and starting a one-dish policy at government functions. The policy will not apply to events held for foreign guests.
Shehbaz emphasised the need for all citizens, including government officials, to do their part in addressing the country's economic challenges, urging them to embrace a culture of frugality.
The measures came as the country bent its back to get USD 1.1 billion from the IMF under a USD 7 billion loan package to avoid a default on foreign payments.
The PM also said talks with the IMF Fund were at the "last stage" and hoped that "matters would be settled in a few days" to get the agreement.
Pakistan has been severely impacted recently by the floods that put one-third of the country under water.
The cataclysmic floods inundated a third of the country, displaced more than 33 million and caused economic damages to the tune of USD 12.5 billion to Pakistan's already teetering economy. The devastating floods last year killed 1,739 people.
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