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The Express Tribune Editorial 8 June 2020

Falling pollution levels

Apart from debunking the claims of climate change skeptics, the pandemic has reinforced the need to introduce environmental measures that have long been absent in Pakistan. The phenomenon of climate change no longer remains a pseudo-science as irrefutable evidence from all over the world, uncovered during the pandemic, has fortified the fact that global warming has without a doubt adversely affected the climatic conditions of the world.
As metropolises world over have reported drastic positive changes in their environment, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency in Pakistan disclosed the fact that Karachi has witnessed improved air quality and up to a 40% decrease in noise pollution during the lockdown. Data taken from 76 different locations in the city indicate a 39% reduction is the average particulate matter. Furthermore, in a recent meeting held on the occasion of the World Environment Day on Friday, experts decided to share relevant data with all stakeholders in the city including industrial and transport associations. It seems the authorities have finally realised the effects of climate change reverberates far beyond mere environmental concerns. Establishing new measures in order to curtail future consequences has become more urgent than ever. After coming to common ground on the matter, institutions within the country need to re-think existing frameworks as ideals of resilience need to be deeply embedded within our contemporary systems. This is particularly important for a country like Pakistan that witnesses the worst effects from global warming.
Climate change is not a sudden catastrophic event but rather a cataclysm that is steadily unfolding through time. It is essential that we remove the distinction created between man and nature as being two separate entities and instead merge them into a single unitary framework. There is a need for a new constitutional debate whereby a new system of politics is able to emerge that not only account for humans and societies but also nature and environments as well.

 

IMF’s harsh demands

The government employees had barely savoured the heart-warming news aired by a private TV channel that they are set to receive a raise of 20 per cent in their basic salary when Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh announces the budget on June 12, in comes the gloom-inducing bit of news that pours cold water on their expectations. This newspaper has reported, based on credible sources, that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged Pakistan to freeze salaries of government employees and adhere to the fiscal consolidation path prescribed by the Washington-based lender by showing a nominal primary deficit in the new budget.
Even though a regular IMF client used to succumbing to harsh conditionalities associated with the loan programmes it negotiates with the former to break the cycle of financial crashes and bailouts, Islamabad is reported to be uncomfortable with the two demands presented by the lender. But, as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The country appears to not have the stomach to say a straightaway ‘no’.
The IMF’s insistence on the two demands seems driven by the fact that Pakistan faces a high and unsustainable public debt that is set to hit 90% of the total value of the national economy. The outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus has exposed vulnerabilities of Pakistan’s economy that had already been struggling owing to weak economic foundations that caused fiscal and current account deficit crisis after every four to five years.
Owing to the prevailing tight fiscal situation, growing public debt and Pakistan’s decision to seek debt relief from G20 countries, the IMF was asking Islamabad to freeze salaries of government employees, said sources in the Ministry of Finance. However, the government is resisting the demand due to high inflation that has eroded people’s real income.
. The finance ministry is keen on the restoration of the IMF programme and is holding video conferences with the IMF staff in Washington. Let us hope the two sides strike a mutually convenient middle path.

 
 

Outrageous!

It is downright outrageous, insensitive and inappropriate. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan presented a bill on Friday in the Senate seeking extending federal lawmakers’ free air travel privilege to their family members. Every parliamentarian is issued 25 business class air tickets annually for free travel within the country. The bill moved by the PM’s adviser will not add to the burden on the exchequer though, the move seeking extension of the facility to family members of the parliamentarians is indeed shocking as it comes close on the heels of 9,350 employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills having been rendered jobless, and the coronavirus pandemic further weakening an already struggling economy.
Even before the onset of the pandemic, the economy was kept going with the help of an IMF bailout package and injection of funds from friendly countries. The federal government has had to spend an enormous sum of $8 billion to help those affected by the lockdown engendered by the pandemic. Besides, the economic slowdown has further dented the state coffers because of reduced tax collection. There are reports that employees of the federal government would get little or no raise in the new budget. The budget will likely disappoint pensioners too. The Punjab government has already announced that it will not be giving a raise to its employees. The EOBI (Employees Old-age Benefit Institution) pensioners have been denied an increase of Rs2,000 a month which they had been promised from January this year.
This is a time when not only the government in Pakistan but most governments in the world are faced with the dilemma of how to meet increasing expenditure with dwindling revenues. People with limited incomes are confronted with growing uncertainty as to their jobs and other sources of livelihood. However, it’s quite another matter with anokha ladla khelan ko mangay chand!
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