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EDITORIAL: At a time Pakistan’s economic malaise is exacerbating by the day, public functionaries are in no mood to change their lavish lifestyles maintained at public expense. The federal government has permitted opening of letters of credit (LCs) for import of flashy automobiles for its cabinet members while for weeks banks have been refusing to issue LCs to importers of essential items because of the foreign exchange reserves having hit a record low.

Unable to import essential raw materials many in the manufacturing sector, such as the pharmaceutical companies, have raised alarm about disruptions in product supplies to the market. Several businesses have either completely or partially shut their operations, leading to massive layoff amid a cost of living crisis.

The situation being what it is, the government decision to allow import of luxury cars has met with a sharp reaction from those affected as well as the public at large. The value-added textile exporters association, for one, called a press conference on Monday to express their annoyance, and what they described as the PDM coalition government’s “lack of direction” and “casual conduct” with disastrous consequences for the industrial sector.

While their outrage is understandable one wonders why the rulers in this country cannot control their desire to travel only in expensive imported automobiles even amidst a financial crisis. It is worth noting that in a comparatively much richer neighbouring India, the prime minister and members of his cabinet use the ubiquitous Hindustan Ambassador car.

But here it is seen as a status symbol, though a sign of vanity rather than status. It also speaks of disconnect with the travails of the people in whose name those at the helm rule. The Prime Minister has repeatedly been saying that “government kay pass dhela nahein hay zehr khuridnay kay liya (the government does not have two pennies to rub together anymore)”.

Yet far from observing austerity money is freely squandered on whatever is of interest to government leaders, such as foreign travels to attend conferences with large contingents and stays at the most expensive hotels. Indeed, some of the events were important, but not all needed advocacy of Pakistan’s case at the highest level.

Nor was it essential to travel by a special plane which, in one instance, stayed parked for five days at a London airport incurring a hefty parking fee in addition to the fuel cost. It bears mentioning that at one point the then British prime minister David Cameron took a passenger plane to a European destination. The PM of a country in dire economic straits should also have no hesitation to take a commercial flight, i.e., in case he must travel abroad.

The PM may not have given the go-ahead to import of BMWs, but the brunt of criticism is directed at him. It remains to be seen if that will bring about the necessary change in the ways of our top government functionaries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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TimeToMovveOn Jan 25, 2023 06:37pm
"British prime minister David Cameron took a passenger plane to a European destination. " Likewise, Modi's mom and his brother traveled in a rickshaw to vote for Modi. There are many faults of Modi when it comes to muslims, but his direction to steer the country corruption free to economic progress cannot be questioned.
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