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Pakistan, June 14 -- Easy to please and easy to offend, the government employees are much like innocent children. All through the financial year 2009-10, they uselessly made desperate attempts to get updates on the recommendations of the pay and pension commission.

Somehow or the other, the government employees were sure that the commission's recommendations would throw up some sort of panacea for the ills of a galloping inflation.

Since the federal government announced a 50 percent increase in the basic salaries of its employees, the administration in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province thought that it would be below its dignity to deprive its employees of a similar 50 percent increase in their basic salaries.

Nine out of 10 government employees sacrificed their siesta and listened to the budget speech of Finance Minister, Engineer Mohammad Humayun Khan only to confirm that the provincial government had retained the 50 percent increase.

Shrewd analysts said that in view of the prevalent inflation the actual increase would come down to 20 to 30 percent. However, the jubilant beneficiaries believed that even the present increase was not less than a miracle.

With calculating machines in hands, more intelligent of the employees cudgeled up their brains to know as to how much would be the precise increase in the salary.

Rumours about the expected pay increase had been in the air for quite some time. The shopkeepers, the transporters and the retailers had come to know about the increase through their own sources. They had, therefore, proportionately or disproportionately made an unannounced increase in rates and services much before Engineer Mohammad Humayun Khan read out the printed budget speech on the floor of the provincial assembly.

The shopkeepers nullified the increase in pay and pension by arbitrary increase in prices of essential items.

For example, tomatoes are in abundant supply in the local market. Within a radius of one to two kilometres from the Sabzi Mandi, the tomatoes are available for five to 10 rupees per kilo.

However, in posh localities of University Town and Hayatabad, these are still being sold from Rs20 to 25 a kilo. The same is true of other items such as onions, cucumbers and potatoes.

In a rare gesture, members of the provincial cabinet while according an approving nod to the new budget agreed to a 20 percent voluntary slash in their salaries.

They may try to do the balancing act by demanding more perks and privileges at some later stage but the 20 percent cut in salaries came as a public-spirited sacrifice that no one had specifically demanded of them.

Provincial ministers have been through genuinely difficult times by facing attempts on their lives or receiving threats from opponents but not a single minister gave in to the undue pressure or blackmailing tactics.

Ministers belonging to Swat, Malakand and Dir have been on their tiptoes all this while. Their near and dear ones were harassed, kidnapped or even killed but they did not accept the pressure and stood by the ruling party and its principles.

As far as development in education sector was concerned, the finance minister said that the government had set aside Rs33.1 billion in this sector, which was said to 32 percent more than that spent last year. He promised that the administration would ensure quality education in about 27, 419 schools by creating 604 new vacancies.

Former federal minister from Shangla in Swat, Amir Muqam, in a budget discussion on a television show made oblique references to the proposed Bacha Khan Employment Scheme but the finance minister said that the plan would be implemented in letter and spirit.

In order to provide house jobs to the first batch of lady doctors graduating from the Khyber Girls' Medical College, the government is considering a proposal to create 50 posts of house officers. Moreover, the health department has created 1, 333 new posts out of which 523 are meant for the provincial and 810 for the district institutions.

In health sector, apart from setting up a dentistry unit in the Khyber Teaching Hospital, the government plans to separate Mardan Medical Complex from the district setup and affiliate it as a teaching hospital with Bacha Khan Medical College.

The finance minister admitted to the fact that in order to combat terrorism, the federal government gave Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa a grant of Rs7.6 billion. He, however, made it clear that after a year the provincial government would have to bear the expenditure and salaries of the police personnel recruited from the federal grant, which would of course be a financial challenge for the government. The new budget has set aside a huge amount of Rs21 billion for the improvement of law and order situation which is necessary to inspire confidence into the people and to restore normalcy in the violence-hit areas.

At the moment, the government is purchasing wheat from Punjab's food department and Pakistan Agricultural Supplies Corporation (PASCO) for Rs23, 750 a ton and providing it to local flour mills at the rate fixed by the federal government.

In order to supply wheat flour to the general public at reasonable rates, the government has to give subsidy for which it has set aside an amount of Rs2.5 billion.

In order to provide seeds, fertilizers and agricultural implements to small-time cultivators and to offer easy loans to rural women for handicrafts, poultry, dairy farms and cattle rearing, the government has restored the Cooperative Bank and its subsidiaries to which it will provide one billion rupees in phases.

The social welfare department runs in City a workshop which provides artificial limbs to disabled persons.

At present the physically challenged persons have to bear 40 percent of the total cost of required limbs. However, in the fiscal year 2010-11, the government has decided to provide these artificial limbs to the disabled persons free of cost. Apart from that, the government has set aside an amount of Rs22 billion to pay enhanced salaries, pensions and medical allowances to its employees.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The Statesman. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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Publication:The Statesman (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Date:Jun 14, 2010
Words:1031
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