PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra on Wednesday said the government would move the Supreme Court against the Peshawar High Court’s decision to strike down a recent provincial law on higher retirement age for its employees.
Mr Jhagra told a presser that the provincial government stood committed to its financial reforms agenda, including the decision to increase the age of superannuation for its employees from 60 years to 63 years.
“While having the greatest regard for the judiciary of the province, the government believes that the decision of setting retirement age is purely a policy matter, which was decided after the approval of the cabinet and assembly, so it should not be judicially scrutinised,” he said.
The minister said the last year’s amendments to the KP Civil Servants Act were neither beyond the competence of the provincial assembly nor were they a violation of the people’s fundamental rights.
Minister says policy matter okayed by cabinet, PA should not be scrutinised judicially
“The KP government will approach the Supreme Court at the earliest and seek to ensure the spirit of provincial autonomy in line with Article 240(b) of the Constitution,” he said.
Mr Jhagra said as an interim measure, the government would make a request to the high court to grant it time to file the CPLA (civil petition for leave to appeal) and suspend its judgment for the meantime.
He said it was the government’s responsibility to care for the poor people and invest in economy.
The minister the more a government spent on itself, the less it would have for development activities. He said the government’s salary and pension budget had increased uncontrollably from Rs87 billion in 2011-12 to Rs316 billion in 2018-19.
Mr Jhagra said the province’s revenue increased 9.5 per cent and salaries and pension 10 and 21 per cent respectively from 2014-15 to 2018-19 and thus, leaving little fiscal space.
He said that also led to less spending for development as the size of the province’s annual development programme reduced from Rs112 billion in 2015-16 to Rs76 billion in 2018-19.
The minister said in the current budget, the government took several steps, including retirement and early age retirement reforms, better control of budgeting and expenditure, revenue generation, and ADP rationalisation.
He said those steps led to Rs29 billion increase in ADP size during the current as it jumped up to Rs108 billion from Rs76 billion in the previous year.
Mr Jhagra said the steps gave space to government to hire teachers, refurbishing more schools and hospitals, pro-poor initiatives and creation of more jobs in public and private sectors.
He said the retirement age reforms had to save the government Rs54 billion in the next three years, Rs138 billion in the next decade and Rs12 billion annually in perpetuity.
The minister said the retirement age reforms didn’t affect common man as only four per cent of the province labour force worked in the public sector.
He said even the government employees with the lowest grade were paid significantly more than the average private sector wages and they had job security for life, so the government’s policy was to make more funds available to the poorest people working outside the government through reforms like retirement age increase.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020