Next deal with IMF to be last one: Shehbaz

PM Shehbaz pledged to rid the country of IMF, saying that next deal for bailout package will be the last

By News Desk & Ag App
June 16, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the nation on June 15, 2024. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday pledged to rid the country of International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying that the next deal for a bailout package with the global lender will be the last in the country’s history.

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“The current IMF programme will be the last in Pakistan’s history,” the PM vowed while addressing the nation on Saturday on the completion of government’s 100 days in the office.

The highlight of PM Shehbaz’s address, which was the first since the launch of federal budget for fiscal year 2024-25, was his pledge to put an end to Pakistan’s dependence on foreign aid and bailouts. The government is currently in talks with the Fund for a loan estimated to be anything between $6 billion to $8 billion, as Pakistan strives to secure a loan programme to avert a default.

PM Shehbaz Sharif mentioned that there were countries in the world that sought assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) once and never needed it again. “We have approached the IMF 24 to 25 times. I assure you today, if we adhere to our programme and targets, the next IMF agreement will be the last in Pakistan’s history,” PM Shehbaz said.

The premier also vowed to abolish all institutions, ministries and departments that have become a burden on the exchequer, saying that this move alone will save taxpayers’ billions of rupees. It is the prime obligation of the government to end all such institutions that didn’t have anything to do with the public service, such as Public Works Department (PWD). This department is known as the “most notorious” one in terms of corruption, the premier added.

He slammed the said department’s perks and privileges, including salaries, which according to him were no less than Rs2 billion annually. He said that funds they get from different ministries and departments for development works would account up to several hundred billions. He claimed that if the department had a pool of a hundred billion rupees for development funds, then 50 percent or more goes into corruption. The premier said that a ministerial committee had been formed for this purpose.

The prime minister also announced that one of the world’s top companies had been tasked with the complete digitisation of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). “Inefficient personnel within the FBR have been sidelined.”

He said when they came to power, the economic conditions at that time were evident to everyone, and they saved the country from default. He said that prudent policies had yielded positive results and now economy was gradually stabilising. The PM also noted that all economic indicators were on a positive trajectory. He gave credit to former Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance and the top leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) including President Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and alliance chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Nawaz Sharif for pulling the country out of difficult economic situation.

“We have defined the future course of action and we will pursue it with utmost honesty and strictness. We will spend every saved penny on public welfare... We will eliminate red tapism,” he said in his televised address.

PM Shehbaz said that since he retook the reins of the country with the help of people’s support in form of votes and trust, inflation had dropped to 12 percent from 38 percent as a result of the government’s policies. Similarly, he said, the interest rate on loans had been slashed to 20.5 percent from previous 22 percent. “This would encourage investment and stimulate business activities,” PM Shehbaz said.

PM Shehbaz then referred to the latest petrol and diesel price cuts as a “relief” to the inflation-hit masses. He, however, admitted that these steps were still not enough amid “storm of inflation” during the last four years that “broke the backbone” of poor class.

PM Shehbaz promised further measures to keep providing relief to people and bringing down the inflation, expand investments and provide opportunities of higher education to the youngsters.

Talking about his visits to China and other countries, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that a system had been established to fully benefit from investments by friendly nations. He also announced plans to train 300,000 Pakistanis in information technology through collaboration with China and to expand IT infrastructure across the country.

He emphasised the commitment to realising the vision of Quaid-i-Azam, saying that with a spirit of sacrifice and dedication, “no one can impede our progress.” The prime minister underscored the need to narrow the gaping divide between the rich and the poor, remarking that “the elite are living like royals while salaried class is crushed under the dead weight of taxes”.

In a bid to boost the literacy rate in the country, he said his government had declared an emergency in the education sector to address urgent needs. “Instead of establishing factories, we will encourage private sector investment to boost trade,” the PM said.

He noted that all the past attempts of PMLN governments to put the country on the path of progress had always been frustrated by out-of-the-blue disasters or obstacles.

The PM dubbed terrorists, robbers, electricity pilferers, profiteers, tax evaders, and corrupt officials antagonists of national development and stability and added that anyone who disrespected martyrs and veterans was a foe to the nation’s progress and prosperity.

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