The hard hitting economic policies of the present government have created a choking environment for the low paid employees of government departments, public sector organisations and the ones employed in the private sector. Inflation is on the rise and basic necessities of life such as food commodities of daily consumption have gone out of purchasing capacity of people of fixed income groups. The suffocating socio-economic environment compelled thousands of government employees, from different departments, joined by people from cross section of the society, to reach D-Chowk and gave a sit-in in front of the Parliament House on Wednesday. The protest gathering included government servants, affiliated with All Pakistan Clerks Association (APCA), pensioners and lady health workers.
The sit-in was staged on the call of APCA, which was endorsed by a number of trade unions, associations and organisations of government employees. The protesting employees demanded for increases in salaries and allowances in proportion to inflation, proper structure of basic pay scales, stopping of downsizing in government departments and privitisation of state owned industrial enterprises.
The downsizing and privitisation programmes will render millions of low paid employees jobless. At present more than 10 million educated young people are not finding jobs in government departments and private sector enterprises. Every year one million educated youth enter the job market. Currently, 0.2 million candidates compete for 6 lower cadre vacancies that are advertised by the government departments. The low paid employees facing acute financial hardship and jobless youth are in a state of deep desperation due unprecedented mass unemployment situation. The downsizing and haphazard privitisation will result in large scale layoff. Moreover, the dismal failure of the government to put the economy on the path of revival by way creating favourable economic environment has slammed the doors of job creation in the private sector.
In a media talk in Lahore Finance Advisor Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh yet again criticised the previous governments for creating the prevailing economic mess that hit the productive capacity of the economy by referring to acquiring expensive foreign debt and lopsided power generation policy. He claimed that the present government has retired Rs.5000 debt liability of the last PML-N government. The argument may be correct, but that government regularly increased salaries and wages in annual budgets besides twice revision of pay scales. These relief measures did not whip wage-push and cost-push inflation. Food inflation was more or less under control.
The precedent of liberal pay scales revision for government employees was set by President Musharraf in the year 2001 when he rescued the economy from the brink of bankruptcy. It was pushed to the precipice by financial indiscipline and rampant corruption in the second Nawaz Sharif government. The military led government had formed a small cabinet of dedicated technocrats, including a finance advisor to turn around the economy and liberate it from the clutches of International Monetary Fund. They did say good bye to this global lending agency. It was in that government that electricity tariff was lowered, prices of medicines were decreased by 50 percent and education stipend from the Benevolent Fund for the children of government employees was substantially increased. The economic growth of 7 percent created job opportunities and poverty reduction and growth strategy checked further increase in the population below the poverty line. On the contrary, in the present government salaries and wages are not increased despite the 100 percent increase in the prices of food commodities and 150 percent increase in the price of all medicines. That is why the doctors of government hospitals feel flabbergasted when they write prescription for a patient who belong to poor or lower middle class family. The MTI Act has done away with the chain of command in government hospitals and made indoor treatment beyond the reach of low and fixed income group people. Tuition fee in public sector universities has sky rocketed due to stoppage of funding from Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and provincial governments. Bashing alone the previous governments and not correcting the direction of economy will further compound the plight of the people.