KARACHI As more federal ministries to be devolved to the provinces in the next financial year, there is need for restructuring/merging of departments before immediate dissolution of the cabinet in the Sindh province, officials told The Nation on Sunday. Besides reducing the size of the cabinet, the PPP-led provincial government is yet to explore other avenues to trim down the government expenditures at a reasonable level. The provincial cabinet in its meeting held last week of January, 2011, had decided to take austerity measures including reducing further government expenditures, abolishing redundant posts and ban on purchase of luxury items such as furniture, air-conditioning machines and other measures. A ministerial committee comprising Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Law Minister Ayaz Soomro and MQMs Parliamentary Leader Syed Sardar Ahmed has been assigned a task to workout proposal in this regard, however it is yet to start working. When contacted, Media Coordinator to Sindh Government and General Secretary of ruling PPP for Sindh chapter Taj Hyder told The Nation that the coalition partners as well as opposition parties also appreciated the step of cut the size of provincial cabinet, but restructuring of departments may cause a delay to implement this measure immediately. He pointed out that more departments will be devolved to provinces with huge stock of employees under the 18th Amendment, which needs sufficient homework. The issue is not only to cut the size of cabinet, but the difficult task ahead to restructure/merger of the identical departments, which is complicated job, he added. Meanwhile, MQMs Parliamentary Leader in Sindh Assembly and Provincial Minister Syed Sardar Ahmed while talking to The Nation appreciated the proposal of cut in the provincial cabinet and said that move will save handsome amount every month. The MQM leader said that the Chief Minister has not contacted his party on cabinet reducing proposal so far. Referring austerity measures, MQM minister, who is also member of committee, said that the work is yet to be started. Syed Sardar Ahmed said that his party has also opposed the establishment of the bank, terming it wastage of public money. Arif Mustafa Jatoi of NPP, who sits on opposition benches in Sindh Assembly, but his party is part of PPP-led Sindh Government, said that after the 18th Amendment, legally there is currently no limit on ministers until the next general election, then ministers cannot be more than 11 per cent of any assembly. In the case of the Sindh with 168 members, it means not more than 18 ministers. However, because of the economic crisis, it is morally necessary that the government implement the decision now instead of waiting till the next elections, he contended. Jatoi estimated that an advisor directly costs about Rs 2-3 lacs rupees per month plus some indirect costs like security, office, staff etc, however, a minister costs about 3 to 5 lacs rupees per month in direct costs (Salary, travel electricity etc) and indirect costs such as security staff etc. Reducing ministers is popular with the public and politically popular, however practically speaking the direct savings are negligible when compared to the whole budget, he pointed out, adding, in the case of Sindh budget for 2010-11 of over R300 billion saving through cut in Sindh cabinet will be less than .001%. However, practical savings should come because less ministers, means reduced departmental budgets, less bureaucracy, less overlapping schemes and more focused expenditures, which is a real saving, Jatoi remarked and maintained that this only works if the reduced cabinet is made up of more competent and professional Ministers, hopefully the reduced Cabinet will be able to deliver. He further said that the austerity is possible by either reducing expenditure (both developmental and current) or increasing revenue or ideally by a combination of both. This requires political strength which this Government does not seem to be prepared for, he commented and added that one example is the Sindh Bank which has been set up with an investment of Rs 10 billion when over 300,000 people in Sindh are still waiting for payment of their 'Watan Cards. The establishment of the Sindh Bank was a truly tragic waste of money, and what was the urgency of setting up a Sindh Bank in a flood crisis year, he questioned and maintained that it is a pure nepotism to satisfy a few VIPS while Sindh starves The good governance can be achieved by ending OPS in posting of officers, ending hiring on contract, ending posting of officials on deputation, and posting competent officers, Jatoi concluded.