By Elton Gomes
The Pakistan government on Monday sold 34 cars as part of an auction of 102 luxury vehicles, including some bullet-proof cars, as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s austerity drive. In addition to luxury cars, the government plans to sell eight buffalos that have been kept by jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for his “gastronomic requirements”, a senior official said, as per a PTI report.
The Pakistani government will also be selling four surplus helicopters that are currently lying unused with the Cabinet Division. According to a report by Geo News, the second phase of the auction could see a total of 41 imported cars being sold.
What has Prime Minister Imran Khan said?
The auction that took place on Monday raised approximately 200 million rupees ($1.6 million), government official Mohammad Asif told local media. The auction has been deemed as PM Khan’s drive to give “the nation’s wealth to its rightful owners”.
As part of his efforts, Khan also claimed that he will be converting his palatial residence into a higher education institute and will move into a three-bedroom villa elsewhere. Moreover, cabinet ministers have been banned from using government money to pay for their medical treatment abroad.
Khan said, “It is shameful that in a country like ours, there is such a wide gap between the lives of the poor and the opulence that surrounds the rich,” the Financial Times reported. Khan also promised to reduce costs and trim motorcades of government officials. “It is a change of mindset,” he said in a speech on Friday. “I will be counting every single rupee I have to spend on me,” Reuters reported.
Khan’s idea to auction vehicles, however, has come under fire for his near-daily helicopter commute from his home in the hills surrounding Islamabad, and critics opine that such cost-cutting measures are nothing new.
Is the drive really helping Pakistan?
Critics claim that cost-cutting measures so far have largely been cosmetic. “There is nothing new in the current austerity drive,” political commentator Raza Rumi told Reuters. It was reported that auctions of ageing government vehicles have been taking place for a long time and with less publicity.
Pakistan’s Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, stressed the importance of symbolic steps in developing national unity. “If you try to see its effect on the GDP, it is small, but in numbers, it is not small,” Chaudhry told Reuters.
In an attempt to address declining foreign currency reserves and a rising current account deficit, Pakistan is most likely to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund.
When Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that he will only be flying business class and not first class, many pointed out that this was already practised under the previous government for most trips. Khan’s other ideas included the reduction of 500 employees from the Prime Minister House and the start of a six-day work week for civil servants, however, these were cancelled as unworkable.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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