Islamabad, Jan 25 (IANS) Terming his participation in the recently held World Economic Forum (WEF) as the “cheapest” official visit, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan disclosed that his trip was sponsored by two of his friends and well-known businessmen Ikram Sehgal and Imran Chaudhry, it was reported on Saturday.
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, Dawn news said in a report.
He recalled that his trip to the UN General Assembly last November was the least costly with $160,000 as compared to former President Asif Zardari’s $1.4 million expenditure, 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.”
It is perhaps the first time that the expenses of a Prime Minister’s official travel have been covered by private citizens or businessmen.
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, Dawn news reported.
“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 runs about $27,000 per person to get into the conference.