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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Senators Question Disparity in Salaries and Demand Accountability

Senators Criticize Wage Disparities, Question Accountability in Government Spending, and Discuss Salaries of State Bank Officers and Dam Fund Transparency.

Senators in the upper house of parliament have expressed strong criticism of the significant wage gap between workers and civil servants. The focus of the discussion was on the salary packages of officers in different grades, including MP-I, II, and III, senior officers of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), and pensions paid to retired civil and military officers living abroad.

The legislators raised concerns about the impact of such disparities on the national exchequer and questioned the performance of those receiving substantial salaries. There are growing worries that if this trend persists, coupled with extravagant government spending, the provinces might seek independent tax collection.

Former Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani initiated a calling attention notice, highlighting the recent notification from the Ministry of Finance. He expressed regret over the continuous increase in electricity and gas tariffs, driven by International Monetary Fund (IMF) demands, while government spending and elite salaries escalate without proper accountability.

Rabbani pointed out that the blame on the 18th Amendment, National Finance Commission (NFC), and provinces for depleting funds is misplaced, emphasizing that federal government expenditure and bureaucratic salaries need control to prevent provinces from demanding independent tax collection.

Caretaker Finance Minister Addresses Senate on SBP Salaries and Dam Fund

During the Senate session, Caretaker Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar disclosed that many officers of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) receive monthly salaries higher than the two-year emoluments of a lawmaker. She shared that SBP officers in OG-8, the highest grade, draw salaries ranging between Rs1.7 million and Rs3.9 million per month.

The minister defended the salary structure, explaining that it evolved over time under various governments, and the SBP’s role in managing monetary policy and regulating the banking sector justifies the incentive regime.

Dr. Akhtar also addressed questions related to the Chief Justice-Prime Minister’s Dam Fund, stating that it currently holds Rs17.86 billion. She clarified that no withdrawals had been made from the dam fund, and any future withdrawals would require judiciary approval. The transparency and accountability in managing the fund’s resources are crucial to ensuring effective utilization for dam construction, she emphasized.

Senate Expresses Concerns Over Unchecked Expenditure

Lawmakers in the Senate expressed concerns over unchecked government expenditure and bureaucratic salaries during the question hour session. Senators questioned the justification behind senior SBP officers receiving substantial monthly salaries and highlighted the disparity between the salaries of public servants and workers.

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The discussion also delved into the revised salary packages for MP-I, II, and III officers, raising alarms about the widening gap. The interim finance minister acknowledged the need for expenditure control and assured that principal account officers would be instructed to curtail expenses. The debate emphasized the importance of addressing disparities to ensure financial responsibility and accountability in government spending.