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Austerity: political will needed

July 02, 2013

IT is heartening to note that the PML-N government is determined to clear circular debt within 60 days as was announced by the finance minister in his budget debate.

At the same time, the finance minister depicted a gory picture of Pakistan’s economy. Its total debt has soared to Rs14 trillion, one trillion rupees are needed for debt servicing and Rs500 billion for circular debt, while the national kitty is empty.

From what source would the circular debt be met within a stipulated period is a mystery to solve. Also, the PML-N during its election campaign pledged to break the begging bowl and not seek any loan from donor agencies such as IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

It also promised to abolish the VIP culture. However, now in power, the government does not seem to have devised any short or long term policies to increase revenue and decrease expenditure spent on bloated administration in order to give boost to the ailing economy. Instead, the finance minister asserts that to seek loan is in the national interest.

Moreover, no serious effort appears afoot to curb the menace of VIP culture, ostentatious ways of living and lavish spending by the affluent segment of society which causes resentment among the masses. Nevertheless 40pc cut oin the prime minister’s secretariat and 45 pc on house spending is commendable. But it will have little impact on the sick economy.

Nawaz Sharif in December 2011 expressed his desire to run the government from a modest house instead of the palatial building if he becomes the prime minister for the third time. Now, as prime minister, he runs his government by renaming the same ‘PM secretariat’ to ‘PM office’ – a self-deceiving device.

Wither good governance? One may be excused to suggest the prime minister to ask all his cabinet members, parliamentarians, head of all public and private institutions, professionals, lawyers, consultants, bureaucrats and businessmen (his own constituency) to voluntarily offer 40 pc reduction in their spending.

They should be asked to contribute the same to the national exchequer in order to save the sinking ship of economy from being drowned.The print media needs to create more space for citizens’ letters which may contain divergent views.