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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Govt cracks austerity whip, bans 5-star meets

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 18, 2013
First Published: 19:29 IST(18/9/2013) | Last Updated: 03:20 IST(19/9/2013)

Battered by rising prices and not-too-robust revenue collections, the government on Wednesday ordered a set of austerity measures that include only economy class air travel for all officers except secretaries and a ban on bureaucrats availing “free companion” tickets.

It also asked all ministries and departments to cut non-plan expenditure by 10%  for 2013-14 and barred purchase of new vehicles, creation of new posts and conferences at five star hotels.

HT has been tracking how bureaucrats blow-up public funds on full-fare air-tickets – that cost twice the discounted tickets everyone else buys – so that they can take their spouses along on international junkets.

Finance minister P Chidambaram had withdrawn this perk in 2008.

Just 10 days ago (September 8), HT reported -- on the basis of documents received under RTI  -- how the bureaucracy restored the concession to make taxpayers pay for their spouses too.

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It had also reported on the same day how the government's travel bills had tripled in the last 11 years.

“Such measures are intended at promoting fiscal discipline, without restricting the operational efficiency of the government,” a finance ministry memorandum said on Wednesday.

“In the context of the current fiscal situation, there is a need to continue to rationalise expenditure and optimise available resources,” said the order issued by finance secretary RS Gujral.

Government expenditure is classified under two broad heads -- plan and non-plan.

Funds spent on productive asset creation through programmes and schemes are termed “plan” expenditure, while “non-plan” is a generic term that refers to all expenditure, including establishment and maintenance activities, of the government.

The finance ministry, in a memorandum on Wednesday evening, asked all departments to ensure that foreign travels of officials are “restricted to most necessary.”

Besides, proposals for participation in study tours or conferences abroad at government cost will not be entertained except those that are fully funded by the sponsoring agencies.

Every department has been asked to enforce a 10% cut on budgetary allocation for organising seminars and conferences.


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