An office memorandum issued by the Cabinet Division on 18th August 2015 raised salaries of members of the federal cabinet (ministers and ministers of state) by a whopping 27 percent – from 76,032 rupees to 99,808 rupees per month for a minister and from 70,331 rupees to 92,324 rupees per month for ministers of state.
In addition, the ad hoc allowance at the rate of 7.5 percent of the salary would be extended to cabinet members from 1st July 2015 implying that a federal minister would receive an additional 7,486 rupees per month while a minister of state would receive an extra 6,924 rupees per month.
An ad hoc relief allowance paid to federal ministers and ministers of state in 2014 would be frozen at the level of its admissibility on 30th June 2015, the office memorandum states.
This memorandum has been in pursuance of a rule that links the salaries of cabinet members with that of senior bureaucrats. Since the bureaucrats have received a raise, therefore, so will the ministers.
Although, this raise is legally valid but considering the state of affairs within the republic, this is a most unfair raise and Business Recorder considers all the definitions of unfair being relevant in this case including inequitable, dishonourable and prejudiced, that has baffled the general public on two counts.
First and foremost, it is grossly unfair to allow the beneficiary (in this case the cabinet members) to decide in their own cause; or in other words there is no moral justification for allowing the participants of a forum to take a decision to their own benefit.
This is not the first time that beneficiaries have decided in their own cause at the expense of the exchequer. This has happened during the tenure of previous governments and as stated earlier the law as it stands allows it. However, times have changed and so should our ways of governance.
Thus for the Cabinet Division to issue a notification in this regard must be deemed to be highly inappropriate and one would hope that the Prime Minister takes cognisance of this decision and reverses it forthwith and in future any raise in the salaries of ministers be put up in parliament and debated.
And secondly, there is a need to monetize the perks and privileges of the federal ministers and ministers of state and make the data public for the sake of transparency. There is no doubt that the ministers have the privilege of being housed in the Minister’s Enclave – a pricey area – and privileges include a car, driver, cook and other household staff.
These privileges and perks need to be monetized forthwith and their total cost to the country must be revealed – a cost which is, of course, paid for by the taxpayers.
What is baffling is that this increase in salaries has been approved in spite of the constant refrain of the Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar that the country is in the throes of severe financial constraints. This has compromised his disbursements for development projects including power sector projects; and his claim that responsibility for this rests with powerful pressure groups who effectively resist efforts to enhance documentation of the economy.
Dar is also on record as having stated that the Sharif administration is proactively cutting down on unnecessary expenditure – a claim that would be difficult to substantiate given the salary raise of the federal cabinet. While the salary increase in itself is an infinitesimal amount of the federal budget yet a rise in salaries of the cabinet that is representative of mostly wealthy individuals appears to be a decision singularly lacking in good sense.
To conclude, the cabinet needs to revisit this decision on an immediate basis and either reverse it or take the proposal to parliament.