Is it working?

March 17,2019

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On August 20, 2018, sixteen members of the cabinet took oath of office. In August 2018, liquid foreign exchange reserves with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) stood at $10 billion. We have since borrowed $3 billion from Saudi Arabia and $2 billion from the UAE. Do the math – the sum comes to $15 billion. As of March 8, 2019, liquid foreign exchange reserves with the SBP stood at $8.1 billion. Figures do not lie. Whatever we are trying to do in this sector is not working.

In August 2018, the accumulated stock of circular debt stood at Rs1.1 trillion. On September 17, the government “decided to constitute a task force on energy” with the objective of proposing reforms in the energy sector. On October 20, a special assistant on power sector was appointed “in a bid to develop a plan for bringing improvement and efficiency in the energy sector which has long been plagued with circular debt.”

By January 2019, the accumulated stock of circular debt had soared to Rs1.4 trillion. For the record, the PTI government added Rs260 billion in 137 days. For the record, the PTI government is adding Rs2 billion a day every day of the year (a few years ago, the same figure was Rs1 billion a day). Figures do not lie. No reforms. Things in this sector are getting from bad to worse. Whatever we are trying to do in this sector is not working.

From 2000 till 2008, profits earned by the Pakistan Steel Mills stood at Rs20 billion. Between 2008 and 2013, the Pakistan Steel Mills lost Rs100 billion. Between 2013 and 2018, the Pakistan Steel Mills lost Rs138 billion. Currently, the Pakistan Steel Mills is losing more than Rs70 million a day every day of the year. Figures do not lie. Whatever we are trying to do with the Pakistan Steel Mills is not working.

In 2013, our public-sector enterprises (PSEs) lost a colossal Rs495 billion. By 2018, losses had gone up to Rs1,100 billion. On November 15, the cabinet decided to set up the ‘Sarmaya Pakistan Company’. Since November 15, PSEs lost an additional Rs500 billion. Figures do not lie. Whatever we are trying to do with the PSEs is not working.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan, total foreign investment during July-January FY2018 was $4.1 billion. The same figure for July-January FY2019 is $1 billion. Figures do not lie. Whatever we are trying to do to make Pakistan attractive for foreign investors is not working.

The ultimate test is the growth in Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities. In 2008, our debt stood at Rs6 trillion. In five years, the PPP took it to Rs16 trillion by taking on additional debt of Rs5 billion a day. In 2013, our debt stood at Rs16 trillion. In five years, the PML-N took it to Rs30 trillion by taking on additional debt of Rs7.7 billion a day. Red alert: The PTI is taking on additional debt of Rs14 billion a day.

Alarm bell: Our foreign debt has gone up by $5.7 billion over the past seven months. Red alert: We are taking on additional foreign debt at the rate of $814 million a month every month (PML-N took $566 million a month).

Voters have given PTI a five-year mandate – that’s 1,825 days. For the record, one-eighth of that mandate has just slipped through our fingers.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: farrukh15hotmail.com Twitter: saleemfarrukh


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