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The Economy of Cabinet

August 17, 2023 at 2:37 pm | Economic Affairs

Announcing a Cabinet fit for purpose will send the clearest signal that the caretakers mean business.

Dr Pervez Tahir

A “small” Cabinet has taken oath, with more to come later. The makers of caretakers, the tacit approvers and the dispersed opposition, agree that elections are the business of the Elections Commission of Pakistan, the single purpose of the caretakers is to fix the plummeting economy of the country.

In the polarised state of affairs, this is a rare consensus. Political class has shown little appetite for the purpose. Rather, it has empowered the caretakers to achieve the purpose. The establishment has put its weight behind it by driving the SIFC.

Economy is a vast area, with plague all around. With a limited time on the horizon, prioritisation and strategizing interventions will be the key. Strict execution of the IMF programme and the SIFC investments are important, but reform of the structure is more important for sustained progress.

Economy is a vast area, with plague all around. With a limited time on the horizon, prioritisation and strategizing interventions will be the key.

If past is any guide, tax reform can bog down the caretakers. Here they should do no more than the IMF conditionality. The SIFC provides a way around regulatory reform. Action leis on the expenditure side.

Announcing a Cabinet fit for purpose will send the clearest signal that the caretakers mean business. Political class rightly claims the credit for the 18th Amendment, but never fixed the federal government accordingly.

The 18th Amendment requires just 10 Ministries and 14 Divisions, not the present 33 and 40. Administratively, a secretary heads a Division and acts as the principal accounting officer. Larger ministries have more than one Division. What follows is a scheme of the Cabinet ministries in the spirit of the 18th Amendment. For the moment, the dispensable Divisions are shown as Wings of a Division. A thorough review will likely reduce their number as well.

Ministry of Finance should comprise Finance Division, Revenue Division and Economic Affairs Division as Wings. The Economy Division will have Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Division, Industries and Production Division and Commerce Division as Wings.

.Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defence should consist of the existing Foreign Affairs Division and Defence Division including the Defence Production Division and National Security Division as Wings.

Strict execution of the IMF programme and the SIFC investments are important, but reform of the structure is more important for sustained progress.

Ministry of Energy requires one Division with Power Division and Petroleum Division as Wings.

Ministry of Communications and Infrastructure can be one Division comprising of Communications Division, Aviation Division, Railways Division, Maritime Affairs Division, Information Technology & Telecommunication Division and Housing & Works Division as Wings.

Ministry of Human Development will include as Wings the Federal Education and Professional Training Division, National Health Services Regulations and Coordination Division, Science and Technology Division and Poverty Alleviation & Social Safety Division.

Ministry of Climate Change should consist of Climate Change Division, National Food Security and Research Division and Water Resources Division as Wings.

Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs will have Law and Justice Division, Parliamentary Affairs Division, Human Rights Division as Wings.

Ministry of Interior should include Interior Division, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Division, Narcotics Control Division, States and Frontier Regions Division, Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Division as Wings.

Ministry of Information and Culture should include Information and Broadcasting Division, National Heritage & Culture Division and Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony Division as Wings.

Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and Inter Provincial Coordination should include Cabinet Division with Establishment Division as a Wing, and Inter Provincial Coordination Division dealing with CCI, NEC, ECNEC and PBS.  

Political class rightly claims the credit for the 18th Amendment, but never fixed the federal government accordingly.

Ten Ministries and fourteen Divisions is all that takes to run the federal government smoothly, economically and consistent with the 18th Amendment. This also provides the strongest entry point for cutting expenditure and civil service reform.  

The writer is a political economist.

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