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Asad Umar grills bureaucrats for lack of preparation in important meeting


News Desk |

Lack of preparation and half-baked ideas by bureaucrats drew the ire of Finance Minister Asad Umar, during a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Tuesday. The finance minister had to return both the issues – the meeting took up – back to the ministries after officials fumbled for answers to some of the basic questions asked by the minister.

The committee had convened to discuss a proposal by the Ministry of Textile Industry to allow duty and tax-free import of cotton but the finance minister was not satisfied with the presentation.

An official present in the meeting told Dawn that Umar was visibly irritated when bureaucrats who presented the proposals failed to answer basic questions about the proposals. The finance minister was quoted as saying, “What kind of a joke is this? You people don’t come prepared even though there is a single agenda item!” Umar had asked the officials to explain how duty-free import of cotton will help Pakistan’s economy and how much revenue will be lost as a result of the measure, but the textile ministry officials failed to give satisfactory answers.

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The minister said the officials who had prepared the proposals should have also included in it the impact of the proposed measure on economy and revenue stream.

Duty-free import of cotton has been proposed by the ministry amid a 24 percent shortfall in cotton production in the ongoing fiscal year.

Though the committee had only one agenda item, it took up a presentation by HUBCO CEO Khalid Mansoor on the revival of the Pakistan Steel Mills as an additional item. However, Mansoor had no conclusive solutions to offer either and only sought that the expert group he was leading be given until the end of March to finalize a proposal.

The expert group was initially given 45 days to come up with a plan to revive the country’s largest industrial unit. The deadline expired in mid-December.

Umar directed the expert group to complete its task at the earliest.

It is pertinent to note that the PTI government has been blaming the bureaucracy for creating hurdles at the administrative level in many areas. Prime Minister Imran Khan had, in October, said that segments of bureaucracy appointed by the previous governments were creating hurdles for his government.

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Asad Umar has also blamed the country’s bureaucracy for some of the economic and social issues in the country in the past. “The bureaucrats have not passed on the relief to consumers on petrol & diesel which was recommended by OGRA. Rs 8 billion benefit denied,” he had tweeted in 2017.

After some initial resistance by the bureaucracy, the government had to issue a clear warning to bureaucrats. “The bureaucrats who will not work for the implementation of our programme will go home,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said in October while defending the government’s decision to remove then IG Punjab Police Muhammad Tahir.