Amid a severe economic crisis, Pakistan’s Punjab caretaker government has sanctioned a budget of Pakistani Rupee (Rs) 2.3 billion for the purchase of new luxury vehicles for its officials, as reported by The News International.
The decision to spend such a substantial amount on vehicles for government officials comes at a time when the country is grappling with severe financial challenges and struggling to meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Pakistan faces a significant debt burden, including an obligation of $2.07 billion owed to China.
According to a notification issued on July 20, each tehsil’s assistant commissioner will be provided with a new double-cabin 4×4 Revo-G M/T, while additional deputy commissioners (general) of each district will be supplied with a new Yaris ATIV 1.3L. Additionally, additional commissioners of each division will be provided with a Corolla 1.6 Altis CVT. The vehicles currently used by assistant commissioners will be allocated to tehsildars, as per the notification.
While the Punjab government allocates a significant budget for luxury vehicles, the country’s external debt servicing obligations amount to $2.44 billion for the current month of July 2023. Of this, $2.07 billion constitutes non-guaranteed debt owed to China. Furthermore, another $1 billion safe deposit from China is also due, leading to ongoing discussions between Pakistan and China on the rollover of approximately USD 3 billion bilateral debt within the current month.
The financial strain on Pakistan is evident from the various debt repayments it needs to make to international entities. The country is required to repay around $363 million in guaranteed bilateral loans, including principal and markup payments to China. Additionally, Pakistan has outstanding loan repayments to France ($2.85 million), Japan ($4.57 million), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with total outstanding loans of $189.67 million, and repayments to other multilateral creditors such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).
Despite these pressing financial obligations, a significant number of highly qualified Pakistani nationals have been leaving the country to seek employment opportunities abroad. According to records from the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment, approximately 150,059 highly qualified Pakistani nationals left the country for jobs abroad over the past decades. In 2022 alone, 17,976 highly qualified individuals left Pakistan in search of work. Till June 2023, around 10,845 highly qualified nationals have left the country for overseas employment out of a total of 395,166.
The allocation of a hefty budget for official vehicles in Punjab raises concerns about the government’s fiscal priorities amid a severe economic crisis. As the country grapples with debt repayments and a significant outflow of skilled workforce seeking better opportunities abroad, policymakers face a challenging task of managing the nation’s finances and prioritizing economic stability and growth.