PUTRAJAYA: The government plans to reduce its expenditure by slashing 17,000 "political appointees" hired by the previous government, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Describing the exercise as "looking to trim the excess fat", Mahathir said the excessive spending by the previous government has forced the Pakatan Harapan administration to make the decision. "There are too many contract officers, some of whom were for administrative needs while others were political appointees. Political appointees will be terminated," he told reporters at Yayasan Perdana, here, yesterday. However, Mahathir stressed that those earning low wages would be spared by being reassigned to other jobs which suit their respective qualifications. "In cases where they are drivers, who get a low salary, it would be a burden to them if we terminate them abruptly. We do not want to make life difficult for them as well," he said. On another matter, Mahathir also made it clear that those in Barisan Nasional who wish to defect to Pakatan Harapan will not be accepted as registered members of parties in the coalition. Responding to calls by the public against accepting those who jump from BN, he assured the people that their wishes will be seen through and that such membership applications will not be accepted. "The people, we believe cannot accept Umno, so their participation will not be accepted. "This is because it will not sit well with the rakyat who do not want the old government to influence the new government," he said. While these members can quit Umno or other parties while individually expressing their support for Pakatan Harapan, Mahathir stressed that they cannot become party members.