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Cutting down: Size of government


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THE elections are, more or less, over. The voters have done their bit and now the onus of providing good governance and bringing the country out of the economic morass largely lies on the shoulders of the PML-N, which will be the majority party in the National Assembly. The first task is the formation of an effective cabinet at the centre. The 18th Amendment limits the size of the federal cabinet in view of the transfer of various ministries and functions to the provinces, and the PML-N, which is poised to form a government at the centre, will be under immense pressure to accommodate a big number of ‘heavyweights’ who have returned to the Assembly on its ticket. The PML-N will also have to accommodate the coalition partners whom it is wooing from the smaller provinces in order to give a ‘federal’ colour to the government. This is not the only challenge. The party will need to cut down on the number of ministries by merging the ones that have overlapping or similar functions to curtail the spread of an unwieldy government and reduce unnecessary expenditure. A leaner government certainly is much more efficient and effective.

The heavy mandate the PML-N has secured in the landmark election means that the parties or individuals joining it will have little power to go against the Sharif government. Unlike the previous PPP government which, throughout its tenure, had the sword of Damocles hanging over its head, the PML-N is much better placed to implement reforms to improve governance. But the experience of the PML-N government in Punjab during the last five years shows that its leadership can be tempted into rewarding its favourites. While former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif kept the size of his cabinet very small, he had set up numerous task forces with their heads and members enjoying all the privileges a minister was entitled to. Such ‘roses’ by other names must not be allowed to bloom, the cabinet must be kept small and the delegation of power to the ministers ensured.

As if this task were not challenging enough, the centre will also have to sort out pending issues with the provinces in light of the 18th Amendment. Centralisation of decision-making and circumvention of the Constitution cannot be allowed if the process of devolution is to be continued. It is a process the parties in the last parliament, the PML-N prominent among them, agreed to, and one that must be implemented if governance is to improve.

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Comments (6) Closed

Iftikhar Husain
May 16, 2013 11:02am
Local bodies elections must be done as soo as possible.
May 16, 2013 09:43am
And also need to change government tenure from 5 years to 4.
May 16, 2013 04:29pm
The new government should eliminqate the corrupt practice of dolling out money to MPs, MPAs and senators under the guise of development. Parlimentarians only have legislative functions. It should also limit and define the use of Prime Minister's discretionary funds
May 16, 2013 06:29am
Jalaluddin S. Hussain
May 17, 2013 01:07am
Not be in a hurry please. First of all clear the corruption mess, as much as possible. Good governance should be high on the priority list.
May 17, 2013 01:23am
With the way that the PML-N is structured and its strong dependence on the biradari system and patronage, it is highly improbable that it will be able to do what the writer suggests. How will it tax the very traders and chaudhris that have brought it into power? Bringing someone like Jamshed Dasti in to their fold is also an indication of a party that is inclined to pursue politics that is far from clean and honest. Let us wait and watch.