WEB DESK: According to a section of the press, the Planning Commission is at present operating on an ad hoc basis as the contracts of eight technocrats from the private sector have either expired or are expiring anytime soon.
This includes the important post of the Chief Economist who revealed that the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Ahsan Iqbal has requested him to continue but added that “I will decide only after getting clarity on reporting lines and job description.”
The total strength of the members of the Planning Commission is eleven and hence the question that arises is: what is the reason for the failure of the government to renew their contracts? Is it that there performance was unsatisfactory? Is it that the Planning Commission under Deputy Chairman Ahsan Iqbal has succeeded in strengthening the capacity of the public sector employees and no longer requires the services of the private sector technocrats? Is it as stated by the Chief Economist lack of clarity on reporting lines and job description? Or is it some other reason? There is no doubt that the Chief Economist’s concerns are valid and the treatment meted out to highly educated technocrats by their ministers needs a revisit.
But it is also extremely unfortunate that the reason for the failure to renew contracts, as per the report, is the failure of the bureaucracy to increase the pay package of MP-I staff to MP-III scale as no doubt requested in a summary moved by the Planning Commission for approval of the Prime Minister, who is also the Chairman of the Planning Commission. Evidently the Prime Minister, on his last visit to the Planning Commission, had given the directions to the relevant officials to increase the pay scale from MP-I to MP-III and yet there has been no action in this regard with the blame being attributed to the bureaucracy.
What must be of serious concern is that the Planning Commission, the premier institution in this country engaged in long-term economic planning with a strategy to achieve higher growth rates and full employment, requires the crème de la crème of technocrats/economists. In contrast, the Ministry of Finance is focused on fire fighting and budget-making that should compel it to closely liaise with the Planning Commission to determine expenditure allocations and revenue generation. Thus for the Planning Commission to attract technocrats of good repute from the private sector entails offering remuneration packages that are comparable to the private sector. Failing to do so would disable the Commission from discharging its responsibilities effectively.
Business Recorder holds no brief for the Prime Minister’s modus operandi of announcing a pay raise while on a visit to a particular office or allocating development funds for a specific area while on a visit to that area or indeed announcing a reduction in the price of petroleum and products as somehow a product of his personal largesse. The objective of such announcements is no doubt to gain political capital/mileage; however it is fairly evident that while the general public maybe unaware that the decline in domestic price of petroleum and products is due to the decline in the international price of oil or that the government’s heavy reliance on taxing the petroleum sector for its revenue, to the tune of 25 percent according to the Finance Minister, allows it to keep prices constant even when the oil prices are rising internationally yet the same cannot be said about the pay raise of technocrats.
And if truth be told many of the prime minister’s announcements pertaining to development fund releases for specific areas are not released by the Ministry of Finance struggling to contain the budget deficit to sustainable levels.
To conclude, one would hope that the Prime Minister abandons such announcement that may appear to be impromptu but are no doubt the outcome of careful deliberations and at the same time there is a need for implementation of such announcements that have gone through the normal process of approval.
Source: Business Recorder