The country's monetary regulator came under fire in the upper house of Parliament after senators were shocked to learn about the payscales of bureaucrats in the central bank even as the country continued to struggle economically with inflation clocking in at 41%.
During a session of questions by senators on the floor of the assembly, Caretaker Federal Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar told the house that officers in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) who were in the highest grade, were paid well over Rs10 million a year, with the salary ranging between Rs1.7 million to Rs3.9 million per month. However, the disclosure did not include the salaries for the top positions of governor and deputy governor.
Effectively, this made them some of the highest-paid government officials in the country. By comparison, earlier this year, the salary of the Chief Justice of Pakistan was increased to Rs1.23 million per month. Senators and lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament are paid around Rs160,000 per month.
Some senators pointed out that this was even more than what officers at the Ministry of Finance are paid.
Dr Akhtar informed the upper house that SBP has an annual allocation of Rs6.8 billion for its 1,078 employees. Insisting that she was not justifying the expenditures, which were approved by various governments over time, she said salaries have increased in the wake of the massive increase in the private sector.
Some senators voiced concerns that being an autonomous institution is not a sufficient reason for an essentially government department to justify such high salaries.
Issues about some recently introduced payscales to attract professionals from the market were also discussed, particularly the disparity in pay and perks.
Tackling macroeconomic issues
Separately, while talking to a private television channel, Caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar said the government was taking all-out measures to reduce debt stress and circular debt and enhance Pakistan's economic growth rate.
She added that there was a need to reduce borrowing and enhance efficiency in public sector departments.
Conceding that the government had increased the tariffs for power and gas to control circular deb. She added that circular debt was a major burden for Pakistan's economy.
She said that institutional reforms are necessary to address the challenges the country faces.
In reply to a question about privatisation, she said that a comprehensive strategy is being made to privatise un profitable entities, adding that a scheme is being prepared to launch Sukuk Bonds through the Stock Exchange.
To a question regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), she said Pakistan can connect with the rest of the world through the Belt and Road initiatives.
China has always supported Pakistan in the hour of trial, she added.
Inflation soars past 40%
Meanwhile, the sensitive price index for the week ending November 23 saw the sensitive price index remain above 40% for a second consecutive week.
The index recorded inflation at 41.1%, slightly lowering by 0.06% from the previous week's high of 41.9%.