Prime Minister Imran Khan is a huge favourite of mine since 1993 when he came to Kuwait to collect funds for Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, Lahore. The then Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kuwait Karamatullah Khan Ghauri appointed me to be his PRO during Khan’s stay in Kuwait. Being a member of the steering committee to collect funds, I had been quite instrumental in collecting a very handsome amount for the noble cause of a cancer hospital for the underprivileged. I have liked Khan for more than 28 years, but such a long association with him does not give me a licence to say black is white or vice versa.
I understand that Pakistan being awfully short on money has no alternative but to borrow money from the IMF, the World Bank, and other monetary agencies. Pakistan is not the only country in the world that is taking loans; almost every country, from time to time, has taken loans, varying in figures, terms, and conditions. In most of the cases, due to the pressing needs of a country, a loan is the only alternative, and Pakistan is not an exception.
Our past governments have taken huge loans, and since we do not have enough cash, we are forced to borrow money from source A to pay back source B. Due to the interest, the debt increases annually, and it will continue to increase unless we curtail our expenses, duly punctuated with a decrease on imports and an increase in our exports. We must establish money generating industries and businesses so that we are able to repay the loans and march towards self-sufficiency.
We have borrowed the whopping amount of US$ 16 billion, something that never happened before, not in the tenures of elected governments or army generals. Khan claimed that he could collect huge amounts of money after becoming the prime minister. Even now Minister for Finance Shaukat Tareen is in the USA leading a high-powered delegation, requesting the IMF to give us more loans. It seems we are proud to take loans but ashamed to curtail our expenses.
Let me quote some figures to show the mirror. The Indian cabinet has 30 ministers to look after its huge population of 1,380,004,385, with the per capita income of US$ 7,166. The USA has 22 ministers to take care of its 331,002,651 people, with the per capita income of US$ 59,928. Pakistan has 28 ministers for its 220,892,340 population, and our per capita income is as low as US$ 5,539.
Prime Minister Khan has a huge cabinet of 51: 28 federal ministers, 4 state ministers, 3 advisors and 16 special assistants. The very first cabinet of Pakistan, from August 15, 1947 to October 16, 1951, consisted of 22 members: 14 ministers, 3 state ministers, and 5 deputy ministers. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan tried his best to minimise the expenses and had four portfolios-foreign, defence, Kashmir, and state frontier. I have a feeling that more new faces will be added to the cabinet in the coming months so that the PTI vote bank is increased before the next election, which is not that distant.
Liaquat Ali Khan ruled the country from zero when the newly born country did not have a great deal of resources. At that time, we had two wings, namely East Pakistan and West Pakistan, but Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, in extreme and unprecedented circumstances, proved that if there is a will, there is a way. Prime Minister Khan compared to Prime Minister Liaquat is lucky that he does not have to start from zero with no logistics and infrastructure. Khan can certainly steer my beloved Pakistan out of the present cash crunch.
Prime Minister Khan must shrink his cabinet to lessen the burden on our national exchequer, which is short on cash in any case. The Senators and MNAs belonging to the PTI and its allies sitting in the cabinet are unquestionably wealthy, or they could not have even dreamed of contesting in the elections. Being rich they can work without a salary and perks or take a token honorarium while still commanding the same official authority vested in them as per the title conferred on them.
Being a member of the cabinet, the official pomp and show-having the national flag on their cars, and their official residence and office-is more important than money. One of the world’s richest persons, France’s Bernard Arnault worth US$ 198.4 billion cannot fly the French flag on his car. What I mean is that money does not entitle the richest people to have the national flag on their cars, and therefore, it is not the money but the official authority and pomp and show that cannot be assessed and valued in terms of money.
If today Prime Minister Khan announces that due to the paucity of funds, he is left with no option but to decide that his cabinet members numbering 51 will not get any salary and perks, but in the greater interest of the nation, they are to continue to work, and that anyone who is not on board with the idea must exercise their option to quit his cabinet so that he can induct those individuals who wish to serve the nation without asking for even a rupee, I can bet on my life that not one person will quit. That is because the official authority is like an accession and an addiction that will compel them to continue working without any salary and perks.
Prime Minister Khan must try this litmus test in our present gloomy and tumultuous circumstances to save huge amounts of money to feed those who are hungry, and to utilise that money for many projects for which Pakistan borrows money.
A good piece of writing, it contains excellent thought. I wish if our prime minister announces that all the ministers are to work without perks and privilege. The amount saved from their expenditure be spent of the poor and needy people.
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