Islamabad: Pakistan’s coalition government on Tuesday announced austerity measures to save money and conserve energy as common Pakistanis are grappling with higher costs of living after recent fuel and food price hikes.
The Shehbaz government has responded through austerity measures and an energy conservation plan to reduce the ever-increasing pressure on the people. “While we are asking people to face hardships and share the economic burden, we are also taking austerity measures at the government level to pass on less burden to people,” said Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The cabinet has approved slashing the petrol quota of government officials and cabinet members by 40 per cent. The decision comes after severe backlash from the public as the petrol prices rose by 40 per cent or Rs60 per litre in one week.
The government has also decided there would be “a complete ban on unnecessary foreign visits by government officials and ministers.” Aurangzeb said that “Only obligatory visits and important bilateral visits will be allowed once cleared by the relevant committee.” Government officials would also not be allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.
The information minister added that there would also be a restrictions on buying vehicles at the government level, except for utility vehicles such as ambulances, school buses or solid waste management trucks.
The cabinet has also decided to restrict lunches, dinners and hi-teas at government offices and its allied departments and autonomous bodies. The consumption of utilities at the government level and at offices would be reduced by 10 per cent while the purchase of office equipment and supplies has also been restricted.
Energy conservation plan
To conserve energy and save fuel, the government has decided to restore the five-day working week. PM Shehbaz Sharif in his first speech after assuming office had announced abolishing the Saturday holiday to make government departments more efficient but the move was criticised by public officials.
Work from home policy is being considered on Fridays to further reduce demand for fuel and energy, the minister said, adding that the prime minister had formed a committee to devise a mechanism so that work efficiency is not affected during remote work. The government would also give priority to virtual meetings.
The cabinet also approved plans to work with provincial municipal authorities to switch off street lights on alternate nights to save electricity. Another major proposal to adjust business hours and close markets after sundown to save energy will be finalised after a meeting of ministers and the business community tomorrow.
The cabinet has also approved a plan to gradually reduce the duration of loadshedding to two hours by the end of this month. The information minister said that after June 30, the loadshedding hours will be reduced to two hours.