In austerity drive, cabinet may be trimmed


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has hinted at reducing the size of his cabinet in an attempt to cut expenditures as the country is facing a financial crunch and economic headwinds.

Cabinet members have proposed to the prime minister to slash the size of cabinet by half as part of structural reforms to rein in government expenses.

However, some ministers were reluctant to forego their salaries and other perks and privileges. Therefore, the government decided that ministers would not take salaries voluntarily.

The government also decided against making 15% reduction in expenditures on foreign missions of Pakistan, citing depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar.

Sources told The Express Tribune that PM Shehbaz said, in a recent cabinet meeting, that he was willing to immediately slash the size of his cabinet and was already consulting the leadership of coalition partners.

During discussion, a majority of cabinet members endorsed the proposed austerity measures while some expressed reservations, who pointed out that some of the ministers had no other source of earnings and they solely relied on their salary.

In response, they were told that the word “voluntary” had been used, so in cases where a minister had no other means of income, an exception could be made by the prime minister in a confidential manner.

To a query about potential savings from such measures, figures of approximately Rs70 billion for four months and Rs200 billion annually were cited.

Some cabinet members were, however, of the view that those proposals were only symbolic and would not lead to substantial financial benefits.

Furthermore, they could create an impression among the general public that salaries and allowances of ministers, advisers and special assistants were a major burden on the national exchequer, whereas the reality was contrary to that.

Apprehensions were also expressed over the proposed 15% reduction in current expenditures of ministries, divisions and departments, which could negatively impact their performance.

Similarly, questions were raised over the proposal of placing restrictions on foreign travel, especially by the Foreign Office.

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