Cabinet decides to expedite institutional reforms

Dr Firdous Ashiq AwanISLAMABAD: Federal Cabinet on Thursday decided to expedite institutional reforms for bettering the performance of key public sector enterprises and meet every week to evaluate the process.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan informed media that in view of the urgency to improving performance of power sector, PIA, Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani directed to hold Cabinet meeting weekly instead of fortnightly.“Performance of these institutions was unsatisfactory and the Prime Minister directed initiatives on war-footing for earlier restructuring and reforms,” the minister said dilating upon 13 point agenda of the meeting.She also mentioned to the Prime Minister’s directive regarding uninterrupted gas supply to domestic consumers and evolve a gas sharing formula in consultation with other stakeholders like industrial, commercial and CNG sectors.

“There will be no unscheduled load shedding of the electricity and needs of domestic consumers of gas should not be compromised to accommodate other gas users,” she added.The minister said in regard to proposed two hour load shedding in cities and four hours in rural areas, the Prime Minister directed to take all power sector stakeholders into confidence and ensure that consumers do not suffer to unannounced power outage.Prime Minister also directed the Ministry of Water and Power to inform the masses regarding load shedding schedule through media campaign, the minister added.

She said the cabinet also decided to withdraw subsidy from tubewells and start metering process in all areas where earlier the consumers were not used to pay bills. “Cabinet decided to charge every consumer of electricity as well as ensure refund of GST on electricity bills.”Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said, after dissolution of Pepco, the government is pursuing a policy of transparency and merit for deployment of Chief Executive Officer (CEOs) of distribution companies.“Constitution of Central Power Purchase Authority (CPPA) is an appreciable decision of the government that will restrict the purview of distribution companies in deciding the power tariff”, she added.

She said “reforms process will be accomplished step by step but briskly” besides ensuring a mechanism of transparency and accountability.The Minister reiterated the government’s resolve to recover the defaulted amount of power sector and informed that so far Water and Power Ministry has recovered over Rs two billion.“Out of total around 200,000 disconnected connections, 43,000 have been restored after payment of outstanding dues and 150,000 are yet to pay their dues”, she added.she said “The Prime Minister also directed to evolve a national programme to overcome gap in supply and demand and re-set priorities.  Our steps will soon bear fruits”.

The Prime Minister has also directed to resolve the issue of net hydel profit for Azad Kashmir, she added.She said the Prime Minister Gilani has directed to work out possibilities to determine uniform tariff by KESC and other distribution companies, besides setting a yardstick for line losses.
“As Nepra has to bear some key responsibilities, a summary for its reformation has been moved and the process will commence soon”, she added.She said Prime Minister Gilani has also directed for a comprehensive plan to accommodate the major natural gas using sectors like CNG, fertilizers and industrial and commercial consumers. “There should be no discrimination with any sector and preferably the domestic consumers.”

The Cabinet was informed that 6118 contract and daily wages employees have been confirmed on their jobs on recommendations by the Committee, headed by Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah. However, the Prime Minister directed to expedite the confirmation process in the remaining ministries and divisions.“Out of so far confirmed 6118 employees, 5242 are contract employees and 876 are daily wages,” she informed the mediapersons.She said the Cabinet also directed to expedite implementation of Aghaz-e-Huqooq Balochistan Package and present report to the Cabinet within two weeks after taking action on the remaining points.

The Cabinet expressed satisfaction over absorption of around 60,000 government employees from 17 ministries devolved under the 18th Constitutional Amendment. “We assured that no employee is disturbed and face financial hardships. So they have been adjusted and are receiving their salaries.”Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said Interior Minister Rehman Malik informed the Cabinet about the steps taken for ensuring peaceful observance of Ashura Muharram.She said Prime Minister appreciated the performance of law enforcement agencies for maintaining law and order during Ashura across the country.

Dr. Firdous said the strategy adopted after the consultation with provinces, yielded positive results.She said the Interior Minister informed the Cabinet that around 21,000 Majalis and 5880 processions were organised during Muharram-ul-Haram.Provinces were provided eight helicopters, besides deploying personnel of Rangers, (1818) FC (1924) and (795) from Islamabad Police for Asura duty, she said.Firdous Ashiq Awan said Director General Military Operations briefed the Cabinet about NATO attack on Salala border check-posts.The Minister said DG MO placed all the facts and figures regarding NATO before the Cabinet.

She said DG Military Operations also answered the questions of the Ministers.To a questions from the media, she said power defaulters lists included both public and private sectors entities. To another question she said Presidential Spokesman was the right person to reply questions regarding Asif Ali Zardari’s health.She said certain elements are working day and night in spreading baseless stories. The Minister said President Asif Ali Zardari will be among the people of country soon.To a question regarding NATO supplies, she said the government will take decision while keeping in view national interests.

She said every country decides in the interest of its own people and Pakistan will also take the decisions in the interest of its people.She said Parliament’s Defence Committee is authorized to take decision regarding NATO supply. It will put forward the recommendations which will be tabled in the Parliament for final decision as Parliament is the supreme forum, she added.The Minister dispelled the impression that there was any pressure on government for the resumption of NATO supplies.  “We are not taking pressure from anyone while it is the reality that the government with the support of people of the country, is responding in a benefiting manner.”

The Minister said the government has always been protecting the interests of the masses of the country. Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said reforms introduced in the country’s institutions will produce results in coming years. She said reforms in energy sector will help meet 20 years power demand.Regarding the memo issue, she said it was the commitment of the government to conduct fair and transparent inquiry of the incident.

“Now the case is in the Supreme Court, so let the court make a decision over the issue”, she said adding that the government will honour the decision of the court.The Minister said written reply will be submitted in the court after consultation with all stakeholders.To a question, she said President Aisf Ali Zardari will address the joint session of the Parliament after the finalization of recommendations from the Parliament’s Defence Committee. – APP