'Roll up your sleeves,' PM warns ministers against lax implementation of downsizing agenda

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the federal cabinet on July 10, 2024. — PID
  • The Prime Minister calls on ministers to work hard for the revolution in the ministries.
  • He says he wants massive fiscal space in the next three months.
  • For IMF deal to be sustainable, sacrifices will be needed, PM tells ministers

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday asked ministries to work hard to make a difference and meet the expectations of the nation, warning against any laxity in implementing the government's downsizing agenda.

“I will not allow my time to be wasted and I am sure you will not either. The only thing that will make the difference is action and implementation. Roll up your sleeves because this is a question of the country, its resources and the resolution of its problems,” the prime minister said in his remarks while chairing the federal cabinet meeting.

Briefing members on his visits to Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, he referred to his interactions with world leaders, particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin, and said he had formed a committee under Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal to follow up.

Similarly, he said he had chaired a meeting a couple of days ago to review progress in following up on “very productive” discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang during their visit to China and would hold another meeting on July 20.

The Prime Minister said that the government had started solarisation of 28,000 tube wells in Balochistan to save an annual loss of Rs 80 billion. He also thanked the Balochistan Chief Minister and other relevant ministries and departments for taking the project to the implementation stage.

He told the meeting that the Finance Ministry had been tasked with drawing up a business plan for solarisation of one million tube wells in the country that are currently running on imported fuel, which entails a burden of $3.5 billion in foreign exchange.

The Prime Minister stressed that Pakistan has immense solar energy potential which needs to be tapped to save energy costs and provide low-cost electricity to farmers.

“Time is running out and we are in a race against time. You have to accept the challenge and deliver. You will become the heroes of the nation… if you achieve a development revolution in your ministries. For this, we will have to work day and night,” he stressed.

On the retrenchment agenda, the Prime Minister categorically said that he would not listen to anyone against the closure of the Public Works Department (PWD) as the government had also found an alternative solution following the Punjab model. He said that the two-week deadline he had given for the closure of the PWD had already expired.

“I will not tolerate any ministry using delaying tactics. Make no mistake. It is fine if there is a valid reason for any subsidiary, but protecting any entity for the sake of advantages and privileges is a thing of the past, it is no longer something of today. It will not happen and it should not happen,” he stressed.

The prime minister also noted that Pakistan spends $5 billion on transporting exports and imports, but Pakistan's National Shipping Corporation operated a fleet of just 12 ships and received Rs5 billion in salaries, compared to 600 ships operated by Bangladesh and 1,500 by India.

“But nobody cares. They should have at least pointed out the problems to find a solution,” he said, also referring to the evasion of import duties worth Rs 1.2 billion at the Karachi port.

He told the meeting that the government had on Tuesday announced a relief package of Rs 50 billion to support protected category power consumers for three months. “During these three months, I want massive fiscal space through implementation of measures like plugging financial leakages and tackling tax evasion,” he added.

He said the government had imposed taxes on the real estate sector to generate Rs 100 billion in revenue and end a culture of tax evasion.

“This cannot last long. We have to make deep structural reforms and accept the risks. I pray that this is the last IMF program, but it requires sacrifices,” he said.

He reiterated his call for ministers to work hard and requested plans from the trade and information technology ministers to boost exports.

“I plead with you on behalf of Pakistan: Let us rise up and accept the challenge, move forward in unison and make a difference, because the nation wants results,” he added.

Prime Minister Shehbaz asked the Minister of Home Affairs and the Secretary of Home Affairs to ensure coordination with the provinces during the month of Muharram and extend maximum possible support to the provinces as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

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