ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday told his newly appointed Adviser on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh that the task of his new team was to provide relief to the people against price hike and control inflation and corruption.
Dr. Sheikh had his maiden meeting with the prime minister at his Banigala residence here.
The upcoming budget, dealing with the IMF and overcoming economic challenges figured prominently during the meeting. Matters causing the economy to derail also came under discussion. The notification of Dr. Sheikh’s appointment was issued prior to his arrival in the federal capital on Friday and his meeting with the prime minister on Saturday.
Well-placed sources told The News that Mr. Sheikh briefed the prime minister on his line of action to overcome the fiscal difficulties, placing the country on the trajectory leading to economic stability.
Imran told Mr. Sheikh that the government and people expect that the financial policies would be choreographed in a manner that would provide relief to the common man. Imran told Dr Sheikh that being prime minister, he was answerable to the people.
The sources pointed out that Hafeez Sheikh showed his complete understanding of the government’s approach and the premier’s policies and assured that he would do his best to achieve the targets.
Dr Sheikh expressed the hope that he would get the required space to move about without which it would be difficult for him to deliver.
Dr Sheikh apprised the prime minister of the talks with the IMF officials that he had had earlier.
Speaking to the media outside the Finance Ministry after assuming his charge ahead of his meeting with Imran, Dr Sheikh said he had given basic instructions for preparation of upcoming budget, as they had finalized targets of fiscal side, including the revenue and expenditure side.
He said revenue and expenditures targets had been set while talks with the IMF will continue.
Mr. Shaikh said Pakistan wanted to move ahead on the fresh IMF bailout package and the Fund mission would soon visit Islamabad to finalise the arrangement.
“The budget 2019-20 and finalizing arrangement with the IMF are urgent things which need to be done” he said.
He said the budget would be announced on May 24, 2019.
Dr Sheikh said he had talked to Hazoor Jawad, Director MENA region IMF, in which they agreed to accelerate the process for finalising parleys on the fresh bailout.
“We have agreed to accelerate the process for finalizing talks with the IMF on the fresh package and the Fund mission would soon visit Islamabad,” he added.
When this reporter contacted an IMF official based in Washington DC to know the exact dates for the IMF mission’s upcoming visit, he said both sides were working out details keeping in view the logistics and security consideration.
Dr Sheikh will also have the charge of Revenue and Economic Affairs Division. He enjoys the status of a federal minister.
Dr Sheikh will also attend the sessions of Parliament and take part in discussions. He will be formulating the federal budget 2019-2020.
Dr Sheikh’s direction to his team to start preparing budget, envisaging major macroeconomic and budgetary targets, has paved way for the arrival of Fund mission in Islamabad by end of the ongoing month.
Relevant sources confirmed to this reporter on Saturday that placing the draft budgetary strategy paper before the cabinet on April 30 and its sharing with the Fund staff will demonstrate Islamabad’s seriousness about securing $6 to $8 billion bailout.
Meeting with party leaders: Meanwhile, talking to the party leaders at the Banigala residence, Prime Minister Imran Khan said it had been decided to launch countrywide concerted efforts to dispel the negative impression about the administration and its delivery.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, PTI Information Secretary Umar Sarfaraz Cheema, federal minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Umar Ayub Khan, Murad Saeed, Ali Zaidi, Khusro Bakhtiar, Faisal Vawda, Adviser NAB Affairs Barrister Shahzad Akbar, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Media Yusuf Baig Mirza, Adviser to the Prime Minister on CDA Ali Nawaz Awan, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Zartaj Gul and Usman Dar attended the meeting.
The meeting expressed confidence in the performance of the Punjab and KP chief ministers. They were asked to keep monitoring the performance of their teams.
The additional portfolio of petroleum and natural resources was assigned to Federal Minister for Energy Federal Minister Umer Ayub Khan.
The prime minister took the decision in the wake of shifting its minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan to Aviation after his failure in delivering as minister for petroleum.
The prime minister kept the portfolio vacant for former finance minister Asad Umer who had declined to accept petroleum ministry. Asad Umer who is annoyed at the decision and has gone to Karachi from Islamabad didn’t attend Saturday’s meeting despite invitation. Sources said the prime minister paid rich tribute to Asad Umer and wanted him to join his cabinet. Khan told the party leaders that he kept the ministry unoccupied for Asad Umer and termed him a fine person.
Imran told the meeting that no minister in his cabinet was permanent and any of them failing to serve the people wouldn’t be allowed to continue as part of the government.
“This point must be highlighted in the public emphatically,” Khan urged the fellow leaders.
Imran Khan announced that the working and performance of federal as well provincial ministers would be monitored as scrutiny was part of the PTI’s manifesto.
He impressed upon the newly appointed Adviser on Health Dr Zafarullah to work on emergency basis for the wellbeing of ailing people, and in this regard he referred to the undue increase in price of medicines.
“What is left behind if medicines register 300 percent hike in their prices getting out of reach of poor people?” he said.
He asked the adviser to keep a vigilant eye on the prices of medicines and make efforts to bring them down.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also had a meeting with the prime minister separately and submitted a detailed performance report of his administration, the sources added.
Praising Dr Sheikh, Imran said he was a competent economist and had also pulled the country out of economic crisis in the past.