Bangladesh's Austerity Measures.

The Foreign Office must brace for an unprecedented storm. This time, not to argue Pakistan's case at multilateral forums or bilaterally, but to survive as an organization. Previously known as the first line of defence, diplomacy has seemingly lost its erstwhile mojo in the eyes of Islamabad. Otherwise, why would allowances be subjected to a thirty-five percent tax? All Allowances of Pakistani diplomats posted abroad have been non-taxable for decades.

The originators of the idea perhaps are not aware that such perks are not admissible to diplomats while posted in Pakistan. Perhaps, they do not know that such allowances are given to diplomats to primarily manage household affairs abroad. They are not aware that such allowances do not make diplomats millionaires but provide for bare necessities. Perhaps, they do not know that allowances are calculated according to the standard practice of the UN which is followed by all countries of the world. Certainly, they do not know that Pakistani diplomats are already underpaid compared to their counterparts from Asia, let alone Europe and North America. Certainly, they are not aware of the cuts already imposed on daily allowances and transportation of household effects. Certainly, they have no idea about numerous senior diplomats who are calculating the price of a plot to build a house after retirement. That includes the incumbent Foreign Secretary as well!

If the savings from prevailing allowances could not get you a house after serving the country for more than three decades, imagine the situation after the imposition of substantial cuts? Instead of revising these allowances to bring some financial sanity in a diplomat's life, the Government's decision to further reduce these clearly indicate a lack of understanding about a diplomat's role and their corresponding needs while serving abroad.

A First Secretary's Foreign allowance ranges between $1400 to $2000 per month depending on the country where he is posted. After buying groceries, paying utility bills, incurring a certain percentage on two children's education, and a monthly visit to a barber shop, he is hardly left with any money to spare. Kindly note that one needs to pay $50 to $100 on a simple haircut. If he has three kids, the third-one never sees the face of a school until he returns to Pakistan. Those who want a thirty-five percent cut on allowances might have visualized $2000 in rupee terms. Wow, $2000 x 224 = Rs. 448,000? How can it be...

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