Two more

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The addition of two ministers of state to the federal cabinet at a time when five more ministries are being devolved to provinces under the 18th amendment is highly unreasonable. All the more so when the country is facing unprecedented fiscal constraints and pressure is mounting on it to cut down non productive expenditure from the IFIs as well as from State Bank of Pakistan which has held increased government lendings from banks responsible for the double digit inflation. It is clear from the explanations being offered that the decision to induct two new ministers is based purely on political exigencies. The haste has presumably something to do with a meeting of the National Assemblys Standing Committee on Finance to be held on Wednesday to review the RGST and flood surcharge bills. A slot vacated by the death of a PML(F) minister had presumably to be filled urgently to retain Pir Pagaras support. Another minister had to be added to the cabinet for gaining ANPs support for the two bills. The additions would indicate the vulnerability of the government which has to continue to offer concessions to allies to remain in power even if this has to be done at the expense of good governance.

The indecent haste in swearing in the two ministers is indicative of the sense of vulnerability haunting the government. The oath had to be administered immediately showing that the government was under pressure and could not delay it till the arrival of President Zardari from Sri Lanka scheduled only for a few hours later. As Chairman Senate was outside the country, the ministers were sworn in by the National Assembly Speaker. The ceremony could not even wait till the return of the Prime Minister who was in Sukkur to address a PPP rally to celebrate the partys foundation anniversary.

The ministers have not been allotted a portfolio yet which shows that what is important is to accommodate them. An extra large cabinet means wasteful expenses which would be hard to explain to the tax-payers. This would create difficulties for the government in its drive to widen the tax net.