Imran Khan speaks during a session at the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. File photo/Reuters
Pakistan Prime Minister is on a full-on austerity drive, making all-out efforts to cut down on wasteful government spending. That includes needless junkets by ministers, which Khan feels is a colossal drain on the country’s resources. He looks for new ways to avoid straining the state exchequer for his official visits, even if it means tapping top entrepreneurs. In this respect, two businessmen friends of Khan have led by example: they picked up the tab for his visit to Davos.
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The charismatic Prime Minister said his visit to the World Economic Forum was the “cheapest” one, thanks to two of his close friends, well-known businessmen Ikram Sehgal and Imran Chaudhry, a Dubai-based multimillionaire, who paid for the trip.
It is perhaps for the first time that the expenses of a Prime Minister's official visit have been covered by private citizens or businessmen.
Addressing the 'Breakfast at Davos', an event jointly organised by Pathfinder Group and Martin Dow Group on Thursday, Khan said his trip cost 10 times less than those of the previous leaders, according to a report in a Pakistani newspaper.
He recalled that his trip to the UN General Assembly last November was the least costly at $160,000, compared to former President Asif Zardari's whopping bill of $1.4 million, former premier Nawaz Sharif's $1.3 million and even $800,000 of former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Thanking Sehgal, a retired military officer and chairman of the Pathfinder Group, Khan said: "He is instrumental in getting me here. Otherwise, I would not have burdened my government to pay a sum of $450,000 for two nights."
Reiterating that this was an "austerity programme", Khan said the government should rely on the over nine million Pakistanis residing overseas.
"The GDP of those nine million overseas Pakistanis in my opinion is almost 50 per cent of Pakistan's (overall) GDP of 200 million people. So we can use this resource and they can sponsor these things," he said.
The premier said he had also stopped his ministers from going on junkets.
"Whenever they say they want to go somewhere, I immediately cancel the trip until they convince me that it will be productive for the country. I don't allow them to go anywhere," he said.
To be able to attend the WEF annual meeting, a person has to be invited – in which case the event is free – or has to be a member of the Forum.
A membership of the WEF costs about $60,000 to $600,000, plus an additional fee needed to acquire an attendance badge, which comes up to $27,000 per person to get into the conference.
Pakistan’s president has called on India to immediately lift all restrictions on people in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, ignoring opposition calls for Prime Minister Imran Khan to step down over his alleged bad governance.
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