The Sindh cabinet, while considering future financial implications of the pension payments to the provincial government employees, has approved a Pension Reforms Scheme that aims to save around Rs894.4 billion, and to avoid a pension bill that would otherwise surpass the salary bill within the next 10 years.
The approval came at a cabinet meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at the CM House on Friday. Shah, who is also in-charge minister for the provincial finance department, told the cabinet that in 2012 the number of government employees was 477,570, and their monthly salary and pension bill was Rs11.78 billion and Rs 6.523 billion respectively.
In 2020, he added, the number of employees increased to 493,182 and the monthly salary bill rose to Rs23.97 billion while the pension bill soared to Rs13.329 billion. “If the same post-retirement liabilities, including pension, commuted value of pension, gratuity, family pension and others, continued unabated the pension bill would exceed the salary bill within next 10 years,” he said and added that a study had been conducted so that necessary reforms could be introduced to control the ballooning pension bill.
Shah said a restriction on early retirement (before minimum 25 years of service and 55 years of age) with a reduced pension, according to the number of years in service, was being proposed.
Talking about another reform proposal, he aid said that the average pay of the last three years of service would be the basis to calculate the amount of the pension instead of the last salary drawn. “Setting pensionable salary to average salary of last three years has a reasonable financial impact on the accrued pension liability of active employees,” he said.
Talking about the ‘family pension’, the CM proposed to limit it to immediate family members. “The family pension may be limited to wife or wives/husband/son (below 21 years)/daughter till marriage.” The cabinet approved the pension reform proposals and appreciated the efforts of the CM to introduce reforms.
Minister for Health Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho presented a proposal to hand over the Karachi Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (KICVD) to the newly established Sindh Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (SICVD) so that it could be made a world-class institute like the NICVD and its satellite centres.
Health Secretary Kazim Jatoi said the KICVD used to conduct 9,000 echo tests, 2,500 thallium tests and 1,100 ETT tests per year and its OPD attended 1,000 patients per day. The cabinet was told that the salary component of the KICVD’s budget was Rs646.752 million and the non-salary component Rs66.6 million, which showed that the annual budget of the KICVD is Rs713.252 million.
The cabinet approved the handing over of the KICVD to the SICVD along with its staff. The CM directed the health department to allocate budgetary allocations for the next financial year and further modernise the institute.
Cold chain vehicles
Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho told the cabinet that the EPI (Expanded Programme on Immunisation) had requested the provision of 28 cold chain vehicles, including 20 cold xhain and eight ultra-freezing vaccine- carriers having a cost Rs 348.853 million for supplying Covid-19 vaccines across Sindh.
The cabinet, keeping in view the urgent need for cold chain vehicles, approved the proposal.
The cabinet was told that there was a dire need for establishing a Sindh Institute of Advanced Endoscopy and Gastroenterology in Karachi at Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi for the treatment of poor patients.
The health minister said that currently an endoscopy unit was operating at Surgical Ward-4 of the hospital, which was not enough. The cabinet green-lit the proposal and directed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Chawla to get it passed at the earliest.
The cabinet allowed the health department to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Benazir Income Support Programme to prevent stunting in children under two years of age among the most vulnerable sections of the population.