LAHORE - Taking austerity measures, the Punjab government banned air travel of ministers and officers, both domestic and international, on government expenses, The Nation has learnt.

A circular in this respect has been issued by the expenditure wing of the provincial finance department.

Official sources in the finance department said the travel expenditures, both domestic travel expenses and foreign travel expenses should be regulated so as to ensure that each department remains within the allocated budget.

The air travel by ministers, MPAs and officers, entitled to air travel, would be subject to prior approval from the austerity committee established under the headship of the finance minister. Moreover, a summary in this regard would be sent to the chief minister office for final approval.

It was also guided that the ministers allowed to travel abroad would have to fly in a class one level below their entitlement, while parliamentarians or officers travelling in the country would take an economy class.

If it is mandatory to travel by air, the officers are requested to travel in economy class and not in business class.

Moreover, purchase of the new staff cars was also banned. All the departments in need of new vehicles will forward their requests to the austerity committee.

When contacted, an officer of the finance department said the provincial government revises its austerity policy time to time.

It it pertinent to mention here that a new austerity policy was announced in 2011 and all the departments and public-sector bodies were directed to follow the guidelines.

Under that policy, all departments were directed not to seek supplementary grants. In special cases, they would require the chief minister’s approval. The officers were also warned that they must not exceed the petroleum allowance limit they were entitled to for vehicles they use at the office.

The policy has also banned official functions at five-star hotels unless deemed necessary for state delegations. Only tea would be served in official meetings.

The interior decoration of offices and the budget for purchase of furniture was also frozen. However, purchase of medical equipment by the health department and that of furniture for schools through school councils was allowed. The appointment of staff paid from contingencies without prior approval of the finance department was also curtailed.