Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Wednesday lambasted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for derailing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme as he expressed the government’s resolve to get the programme back on track to revive the ruined economy.
Addressing a press conference alongside Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb in Islamabad, the finance minister said he will leave for Washington today (Wednesday) to meet IMF officials and he was hoping that the programme — renegotiated by former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-finance minister Shaukat Tarin — would resume once again.
The minister said that government would do whatever was necessary to restore the programme. He said the government could reduce public sector development spending with other necessary budgetary discipline arrangements.
“We will restore the programme. If the government has to tighten its belt, it will do so,” he said adding that no extra burden would be put on the people.
Criticising the former PM, Miftah said the IMF programme was derailed by Imran Khan and now it was massively off-track. “Now we will have to convince the IMF,” he added. The finance secretary briefed the federal cabinet on the IMF programme and as per him it was “5,300 per cent off-track”, the minister added.
Miftah said the government will bring a people and industry-friendly budget and it was the top priority to provide relief to people.
He also assured the Pakistani Rupee will not slide further against the US dollar and the local markets will perform better.
The finance minister also listed a number of decisions taken by the PTI government that ‘damaged the economy’ as he made a comparison between the PTI government and the last year of PML-N’s government before the 2018 elections. .
Miftah said the fiscal deficit remained at Rs1,600 billion per annum on average during the government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, while the Imran Khan-led government took this figure to around Rs5,600 billion.
He said the total debt of the country from 1947 to 2018 was Rs25,000 billion whereas the PTI government added at least Rs20,000 billion to the national debt in its three-and-half-year tenure.
The finance minister further said tax collection during the PTI government reduced from 11.1 per cent to 9.1 per cent, adding that inflation touched 12.7 as compared to around 4 per cent during PML-N’s government.
Regarding power outages in the country, the minister said power plants with a capacity of 7,500 megawatts of electricity were shut down due to massive circular debt, lack of fuel, and the incompetence of the previous government.
Miftah also stated that the PTI also ruined the energy sector as before the PTI government’s tenure there was no circular debt pending in the gas sector. “But now the gas sector is faced with a circular debt of Rs1.5 trillion,” the minister said, adding that the SNGPL’s debt alone amounted to Rs200 billion.
Speaking about fertilizer shortage, the minister said the fertilizer, just like wheat, was ‘smuggled out of Pakistan’ because it’s expensive in the international market. He said the government decided to constitute a commission to investigate the smuggling of the commodity.
Reduction in Sugar, Flour Price
Marriyum Aurangzeb said the cabinet approved a reduction in the prices of sugar and flour to provide relief during Ramzan and this subsidy would be funded by the provinces.
The information minister said the prime minister has issued directives to reduce the price of a 10 kg flour bag from Rs550 to Rs400. She said the subsidised flour will be available everywhere in Punjab.
Read more Implications of the resumed IMF deal
According to Marriyum, the price of sugar has been reduced to Rs 70 at utility stores in Ramzan. She added that the government has issued directives to ensure provisions of both commodities across the country at subsidised rates.
She said the Punjab government will supply flour to Gilgit-Baltistan, adding that the supply of flour to Azad Kashmir will be a gift from the Punjab government.
Answering a question, Marriyum said a cabinet committee under the chairmanship of Law Minister Azam Tarar has been constituted to review the law regarding the Exit Control List (ECL). The committee will submit its report to the cabinet in three days, she added.
She also said that Muhammad Tahir Roy has been appointed as the head of the Federal Investigation Agency.