ISLAMABAD - The government has announced a five-point austerity plan, imposing ban on new posts and purchase of new vehicles during ongoing financial year 2016-17.

It had announced almost the same measures in the previous financial year too but they failed to make any big difference as the finance minister took to the parliament a supplementary budget to cover expenditure overruns.

The finance ministry has declared that there will be complete ban on purchase of all types of vehicles, both for current as well as development expenditure, except operational vehicles of law enforcing agencies for which NOC from Finance Division would be required.

In an apparently anti-people step, it also imposed ban on new posts, saying that “creation of new posts will be banned except those required for development projects and approved by the competent authority”.

This decision flies in the face Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s claims who said the other day that government would make efforts to consolidate the economic gains achieved so far towards macroeconomic stability and work towards higher growth and jobs creation.

The rest of the three measures are cosmetic as they are likely to have least affect in terms of controlling expenditures. Entitlement of periodical, magazines etc of all officers shall remain restricted to only one daily newspaper, according to the austerity measure. It further added that serving of official lunches and dinners should be restricted.

The ministry has also directed the Principal Accounting Officers to ensure the rationalisation of utility bills while remaining within the available budget, as no re-appropriation will be authorised from head utilities.

As mentioned earlier, the government had announced almost the same austerity measures in the previous financial year too but they failed to bring any major change. Instead, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had taken parliament’s post-facto approval for a Rs261 billion ‘supplementary budget’ to cover massive governmental expenditure overruns in the last fiscal year, almost 28 percent higher than the figure approved last year.

Despite ban on purchase of new vehicles, the government had spent about Rs15 million on the purchase of vehicles by the Prime Minister’s Office alone. Another Rs109 million was spent by foreign affairs ministry on the purchase of an unspecified number of vehicles, according to the official documents approved by the parliament in June this year. Similarly, Rs822 million were spent by the Foreign Office on the purchase of 35 ‘high security vehicles’.