Shehbaz Sharif forms committee to propose austerity measures

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif constituted a 15-member committee on austerity measures for better utilisation of public money amid a serious economic crisis which requires serious rethinking and resetting national priorities.

Shehbaz opted for the move at a time when the government is going to have a crucial dialogue with the IMF which has been pressing hard to cut budget deficit.

The move came Friday as a notification issued by the finance ministry said the committee had been constituted “keeping in view the financial challenges being faced by the country, to conserve resources and to take austerity measures for ensuring rational utilisation of public money besides curtailing expenditure to reduce the fiscal deficit”.

It is led by former bureaucrat Nasir Mahmood Khosa who has served as the principal secretary to the prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] as well as the Punjab chief secretary. Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha – also former Punjab finance minister in the cabinet of the then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif – is one of the its  members.

Other members of the committee are special assistant to the prime minister on government effectiveness and finance and adviser to the PM on the establishment besides the cabinet, finance, power and cabinet secretaries as well as the four provincial chief secretaries and the Capital Development Authority chairman.

Meanwhile, renowned economist Dr Kaiser Bengali – known for his controversial but solid views – is also among the nominated persons. The remaining three members out of the government circle are Dr Furrukh Saleem, Dr Zubair Khan and Naveed Iftikhar.

The committee would suggest ways and means to reduce public expenditure and ensure fiscal discipline, take measures to economise government operations and review and rationalise the size of the government to achieve optimal and smart organisational structures, including a review of state-owned enterprises and corporations having redundant or overlapping functions.

It is also going to invite proposals from ministries and divisions regarding austerity measures including curtailment of expenditure and any other issue that may be relevant or incidental to the achievement of austerity in government operations.

The committee is required to submit its recommendations within 15 days for consideration by the prime minster with the Finance Division providing secretarial support to the panel.

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