ISLAMABAD: Top financial managers of the government have told Prime Minister Gilani that a unified national economic agenda is crucial to avert an otherwise imminent economic and financial collapse.
As a response, the premier has assigned the finance minister-led government committee to take all the political partiesinto confidence for an agreed solution to face the challenge.
The Hafeez Shaikh-led committee of PPP ministers and leaders would start meeting different political parties from Tuesday, starting with the PML-N team led by Ishaq Dar. The government has also invited top 28 financial experts of the country to attend the Economic Advisory Council meeting on Thursday next to discuss immediate measures required to improve the financial health of the country.
Official sources said that the government, which has lost credibility because of massive corruption and bad governance, now seems to be in a tight corner and is, therefore, compelled to pursue the agenda of structural and institutional reforms as recommended by the PML-N.
These sources said that foreseeing a serious financial crisis, the government now seems inclined to undertake reforms agenda to curb corruption, check bad governance, restructure major public sector corporations, empower Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), etc.
These sources said that the Hafeez Shaikh Committee that comprises Naveed Qamar, Raza Rabbani, Babar Awan and Raja Pervez Ashraf would meet different political parties to prepare a bipartisan national economic agenda, which would have the support of all and sundry.
These sources said that the prime minister, in his meeting last week, with government’s financial managers read out the PML-N’s 10-point agenda to emphasise that it would remain the focus. The government team, while preparing a unified national economic agenda, would ask the political parties to identify the areas for additional revenues badly required to sustain the country’s economy.
“The present economic situation is unsustainable,” the prime minister has been frankly told following which it was decided to take all the political parties on board to set an agreed economic agenda.
One of these sources assured that the government, which in the past has been dithering on issues of setting-up independent accountability commission and to take measures to improve governance, would possibly not delay any more on these issues because it knows that further failings on its part would mean political death of the rulers.
The Zardari-Gilani duo has wasted the first three years of its rule, marred by corruption, inefficiency and bad governance. According to Transparency International, more than Rs1,000 billion corruption was done during these three years and as a consequence, Pakistan attained new heights amongst the most corrupt nations in the world.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif’s PML, who gave a 10-point reform agenda last month, has firmed up its proposals to discuss them with Hafeez Shaikh-Committee on Tuesday. Led by Ishaq Dar and comprising Sardar Mehtab Khan, Pervez Rashid and others, the N-team would seek an early implementation of institutional and structural reforms to check corruption and bad governance, and to improve economic and social conditions of the state as well as the masses.
The PML-N has smartly played its card of getting the much required reforms agenda implemented by an otherwise vulnerable government at a crucial stage when the time is running out for taking corrective measures. The government’s own economic team has issued the warning that any further inaction could result in ‘indefinite delay’ in release of the sixth tranche of $1.3 billion from the IMF as well as non-availability of multi-billion dollar funds from other donors in the current fiscal.
Presently, the finance ministry is chewing on a number of proposals, including slashing down of development expenditures, curtailing subsidies, non-provision of additional funds for defence budget, scaling down the salaries increase from 50 per cent to 25 per cent for remaining period of the current fiscal year, introducing withholding regime and improving enforcement to get breathing space.
However, all agree that for economic revival and stable financial conditions, only a unified strategy would work for which the rulers have to muster the required support from all the political groups.