Tallat Azim We finally have a head for the Ministry of Finance, after the last incumbent Shaukat Tarin decided to opt out. Its none other than Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, whose credentials for the job include previous experience in a similar capacity in the Mush-arraf Cabinet. He is a veteran economist, a financial expert and a policy maker of international repute. The fact remains that all his abilities will be put to the test with a struggling economy that is starved of foreign investment and is minus tight controls. All the finance wizards that we have ever had have always focused on how to generate more money by burdening people with newer ways of taxation. Nobody has worked on curtailing expenses, as friends Nadeemul Haque and Furrukh Saleem have continuously advised in their writings. There is little questioning of our expenditures by the media and the citizens. Most discussions just assume that all the expenditures are for public good, thus, one hears a constant refrain towards increasing development expenditure and expenditure on education. It may not make him very popu-lar in the different government departments, but it would be wonderful if the first thing Dr Sheikh did was a review of all the useless government agencies that have existed for years with nothing to justify their raison detre. While non-performance of institutions like the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, Pakistan Software Export Board and others is common knowledge, there is a mind-bogglingly long list of institutions and directorates whose names do not even ring a bell. The only people who know of them are probably just those whose salaries they provide Pakistan Hunting and Sporting Arms Development Company, Technical Up-gradation & Skill Development Company, Pakistan Council of Rese-arch in Water Technology, Tomato Paste Plant, Pakistan Standards & Quality Control Authority, Pakistan Automobile Corporation, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, National Talent Pool and the names are endless. The drain on the monetary resources of the country by these useless offices, where no work of any substance is carried out, amou-nts to a huge waste. It is not for nothing that the ultimate wish of every one in this country is to be blessed with a sark-ari naukri, whatever the level. The VIP culture and the penchant for a vulgar display of power, position and wealth is another area for Dr Sheikh to explore and try to reduce. Money saved by curtailing waste can do wonders for the national purse, if not for the egos of the VIPs. Ban, veto, disallowed are the sound bytes we are looking for out of the public sector offices. It is time that the countrys collective future was considered more important compared to individuals or a comfortable present. If the government can rise to the challenge of radical chan-ges, as opposed to maintaining a status quo in everything, it could assure another term for itself, which, at present, seems like a joke. A review could also be done of all the prime government-owned lands and properties that could be sold or encashed at both the federal and provincial levels. The land earmarked for a new GHQ in Islamabad and the Government Officers Residences (GOR), in Lahore, which are both located on the most prime land in the heart of their respective cities, are cases to consider. GOR has now been walled in the face of the threat from terrorism. While the Chief Minister Punjab takes pride in being referred to as a Khadim-e-Aala instead of a Wazir-e-Aala, the officials residing in the GOR have no such mindset. They continue to do exactly what they please to the parks, roads, clubs and houses in the GOR, all at the taxpayers expense. Rules and respect for processes all went out when the British left it appears. Likewise, the quest for a bigger and better GHQ continues without consideration for the money it will save by staying where it is in the older city of Rawalpindi. The money that can be raised/saved through selling these valuable lands has to be so much more than what we will get through the Kerry-Lugar Bill in the next few years. One last thought - has anyone looked closely at the quality of the government residential buildings? While the newer housing 'looks highly modern and smart, the quality of construction is so poor that cracks in the walls are a common sight after the first few years. Is that not an additional waste of funds - poor quality construction that requires these unnecessary buildings to be rebuilt again and again? Postscript: I have just not been able to understand how Mian Shahbaz Sharif could have made the gaffe about asking the Taliban that they should spare Punjab. His reasoning was so childish and it is especially more disappointing because one has considered him the brighter of the two Sharifs and, despite Rana Sanaullah, a hope for the future. The governor of the province has had a field day on this one and, for once, one cannot be in disagreement with him. It is these unclear stands that cause unnecessary dents in our ability to deal with national crises and erode trust. The one thing that has gone well in the last few days is the consensus evolved to restore the constitution to its original shape. The Parliamentary Com-mittee on Constitutional Reforms, headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, has completed the huge task assigned to it. The fruits of their labour will be a most welcome gift for the country. The provinces and the prime minister stand to regain their lost shine. More power to Raza Rabbani. An impeccable source has disclosed that the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani did not respond to an appointment requested by a person who was the virtual prime minister and all powerful during General Musharrafs time as president. Maybe, it is a calculated and considered part of his continuing policy of distancing himself and his institution from the way things used to be. If the chief can help it, the restored image of the army is not going to take a beating again. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com