Cabinet discusses ‘austerity policy’ for judicious utilization of available resources

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Federal Cabinet on Tuesday held a thorough discussion on the ‘austerity policy,’ which would be finalized in a couple of days by a committee chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to ensure judicious utilization of available resources.
“The PM has chaired 3-4 meetings of the committee during the last days. A conclusive meeting will be held on Thursday. We will discuss the policy with all provinces tomorrow and the day after tomorrow for getting their input. Their suggestions will be incorporated in the policy,” Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif told the media after the cabinet meeting. He was flanked by Adviser to the PM on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb.
The defence minister said the committee, working on the austerity policy and consisting of 10 federal ministers and four secretaries, was aimed at limiting the nation’s living and working styles within the available resources. Elaborating main contours of the policy, Khawaja Asif said as per the estimates there would be a saving of around Rs 56 billion annually if the 20 percent workforce of the public sector departments started performing their duties online/working from home on rotation. “The estimate [of Rs 56 billion annual saving] is not inflated rather it is almost 10-15 percent less than the actual evaluation.”
He said the timings of wedding halls would be limited to 10 p.m., while restaurants, hotels, and markets would close down by 8 p.m., however, there could be some room to extend the restaurants’ closing time by one hour.
“With the implementation of this step, there will be a saving of Rs 62 billion [annually], he added.
Khawaja Asif said the use of energy-efficient fans, which were available in the markets, would help save Rs 15 billion [annually] as they consumed about 40 to 60 watts of electricity as compared to the old ones consuming about 120 to 130 watts of electricity. He said the committee had calculated that there would a saving of Rs 23 billion [annually] with the use of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.
“By using efficient energy fans and air conditioners in homes, about 8000 to 9000 megawatts of electricity can be saved on average,” he added.
He said Rs 28 billion per month could be saved in terms of Capacity Payments also.
The minister said the government would soon launch a campaign, directing gas supply companies to provide energy-saving devices used with geysers. “This move will save Rs 92 billion annually,” he added.
He said the government was in negotiation with motorcycle companies for the production of electric bikes. “The motorcycles that run on petrol will slowly be phased out.
“We have begun importing e-bikes and started negotiations with motorcycle companies for the modification of existing ones […], this will help save us around Rs 86 billion,” he added. The minister expressed the hope that with the introduction of e-bikes the price of existing motorcycles would considerably decrease. However, he said, the government would ensure a price check on the e-bikes. If all the measures were translated into action, the country would hopefully save billions of rupees, he added.
Khawaja Asif said the Ministry of Information would be running a campaign in social media, electronic and print media to create awareness among the public about the measures being taken under the austerity plan.
Talking about water conservation, he said the government had adopted an effective strategy under which rainwater could be harvested and used for daily household consumption. “In the next few days, we will be approaching all the provinces with this national project and then the final approval of the conservation policy will be given,” the minister said.
“This is a national programme, we want to evolve consensus before its launch. The exercise will be completed within two days and the final approval of the conservation policy will be accorded on Thursday hopefully.” The minister urged the nation to “normalize” its behavioural patterns as the country was in a ‘grave economic crisis’. “We can’t afford the culture of wastage [available national resources] anymore.”
To a question, he said all stakeholders, including the traders’ community, would be taken on board about the decisions to be taken by the cabinet for the conservation of energy, which would have long-term effects. To another question, he said the protocol culture that emerged in the country required to be changed for the better future. “I also believe that politicians should be the first ones to adopt these changes and become role models for the public,” the minister added. To another query, Khawaja Asif said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had not shown any seriousness regarding the Bannu incident. “It is unfortunate that the whole leadership of the PTI is sitting in Zaman Park Lahore for reasons known to everybody,” he added.
A comprehensive statement would be issued by the Federal Government soon on the issue, he said.
The minister said the Pakistan Army had rendered unmatched sacrifices in the war against terrorism and to eliminate the menace from the country.
He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had appreciated the statement of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari [regarding Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi]. The foreign minister, in his statement, presented the sentiments of the people of Pakistan.
“The entire nation pays tribute to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the whole nation stands with his narrative,” Khawaja Asif said.