ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan on Thursday billed the performance of the PML-N government worse than that of the PPP regime and lamented that while the other states in the sub-continent are showing progress, Pakistan is economically going down. Speaking here at a news conference along with PTI senior leader Asad Umar, Imran came hard on ex-premier Nawaz Sharif and finance minister Ishaq Dar for bringing Pakistan to the present alarming situation.
They alleged Dar had been lying about the national economy, presenting fudged figures about economic indicators. Cautioning against a second big devaluation in a few months, Imran said it would increase the cost of living for the common citizen. “The cost of petrol, diesel, LNG, cooking oil, electricity, transportation, imported fertilizers and seeds and many other items of use by the people will cost more.
This recurring devaluation is the result of the disastrous economic policies implemented by Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar over the last 4 years,” he noted. Moreover, Imran noted that the government levied heavy taxes and surcharges on gas and electricity, making both of these inputs most expensive in the region for Pakistani exports. In addition, in order to fudge the budget deficit numbers and artificially show a lower deficit, nearly Rs400 billion of refunds of industry are stuck with FBR.
Imran said the result of these policies is that for the first time in Pakistan history, exports are lower than what they were five years back while imports have increased to record levels even as exports declined resulting in record trade deficits never seen before in history with the trade deficit reaching $33 billion last year and this year running at a pace even higher than last year.
The PTI chief noted that the Sharifs could not establish a single hospital of world standards due to which Nawaz, Dar and Begum Kulsoom are being treated in London. External pressure on Pakistan, they said, is mounting in view of Pakistan’s worrying economic situation with foreign exchange reserves continuously tumbling and exports going down. Imran alleged that after the government of President General Pervez Musharraf, which was even better, everything started plunging and during this period, PML-N government’s performance was worse than PPP’s government and during the last four years, Rs10,000 billion loans were obtained.
The PTI chairman charged that the entire burden of the government’s incompetence and corruption was on the masses, eroding their purchase power massively. He pointed out that petrol was available at Rs71 per litre last year in July while its price had reached Rs95 now. Imran continued that three additional surcharges have been imposed and noted that the major reason of fall in the exports is high tariff of electricity and gas. He added the imports have reached $54 billion. “On one hand, we are taking loans while on the other, still foreign exchange reserves are coming down continuously,” he said. Referring to the government’s claim of broadening the tax net, Imran said the number of tax filers was 2.1 million 10 years ago but today it has reduced to around 1.25 million.
Turning his guns to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the PTI chairman alleged that now stories of his corruption would unfold and already not the SECP but a Chinese company has unearthed corruption in the Multan Metro Bus project.
Speaking on the occasion, Asad Umar alleged that the government has tried to make up for the deficit by going on a record borrowing spree. “During the current year our external debt burden is increasing at an average of $1 billion per month. Despite this massive borrowing the SBP foreign exchange reserves have declined by $4 billion during the current fiscal year, hitting dangerously low levels,” he noted.
According to IMF, he said the net foreign exchange reserves of Pakistan, which were at $7.5 billion in September 2016 when the IMF programme ended were minus $724 million last month and since then these have declined further.
Furthermore, he said the entire burden of revenue generation is being placed on the middle class, poor, industry and farmers as the government has failed to collect tax from the tax evaders and money launderers. “This is one reason along with devaluation of rupee, why the price of petrol has gone up in this fiscal year from Rs71 per litre and expected to increase to more than Rs95 per litre effective 1st April. Similarly the government has renewed 3 surcharges on electricity equal to Rs1.55 per unit which are expected to earn the government Rs110 billion in a year. This includes the Neelum Jehlum surcharge which the government claims is already complete,” he asserted.
Expressing their dismay, Imran and Asad said the current state of external economic crises is the result of poor and ill-intentioned government policies, as well as weak institutions dealing with the economy. “The poor governance resulting from these weak institutions has sapped the capacity of the government to formulate and implement policies needed for strengthening the economy. The institutions have been deliberately weakened to ensure lack of accountability for the rulers and their accomplices,” they noted.
No economic turnaround, they said, could take place until these institutions are provided protection from political interference and appointments made on merit in these institutions instead of placing henchmen of the rulers who facilitate the crimes of their bosses and then help protect them by preventing the facts from coming to light.