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PM says tapping friendly nations for more loans 'embarrassed' him

Prime Minister Shehbaz regrets asking for funds and loans following last year's devastating floods in Pakistan

By Business Desk
January 14, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during his address at the passing out ceremony of 45th Specialised Training Program of PAS in Lahore.. — Twitter/@GovtofPakistan
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during his address at the passing out ceremony of 45th Specialised Training Program of PAS in Lahore.. — Twitter/@GovtofPakistan

LAHORE: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Saturday spoke about feeling embarrassed while seeking funds and loans from friendly countries during his recent visits across various nations since the flooding in the summer of 2021.

The prime minister, addressing the passing out ceremony of probationary officers of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) in Lahore, shared his regret stating that asking for foreign loans was not the right solution to deal with the country's economic challenges, as the money sought in loans would have to be returned.

Censuring Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the premier said time was previously wasted following incitement to chaos and protests.

PM Shehbaz added that sustainable development goals (SDGs) could be achieved and foreign loans avoided had their "bus moved at a faster pace" and on the right track.

Elaborating on his viewpoint on the economic challenges faced by the country, he regretted that during the past 75 years, different governments — whether headed by political leadership or military dictators — could not address the economic issues.

The prime minister maintained that during his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed had very graciously and affectionally announced to grant of a further $1 billion loan to Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, PM Shehbaz also lauded Saudi Arabia for its financial support.

Pakistan’s central bank forex reserves have plunged to the lowest level since February 2014 after a decline of 22.11%, posing a serious challenge for the country in financing imports.

The country — with an economy of Rs350 billion — is in dire need of foreign aid to reduce its current account deficit as well as ensure enough reserves to meet its debt obligations.

Pakistan's economy has crumbled alongside a simmering political crisis, with the rupee plummeting and inflation at decades-high levels, but devastating floods and a global energy crisis have worsened the situation.

In its call for funds at the recent International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva, the country was able to secure pledges worth over $10 billion — most of them loans.

UAE has agreed to roll over $2 billion and also approved providing $1 billion in loans. Moreover, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia inked an agreement earlier this week to finance oil derivatives worth $1 billion.

Riyadh also is considering beefing up its deposit in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from $3 billion to $5 billion as Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman directed his financial officials to study increasing the Pakistan deposit by $2 billion.

'Let’s move to transform Pakistan'

Moving on, the prime minister urged the civil servants to serve the country and nation with their utmost capacities and expressed the hope that they were capable of steering the country out of the current challenges.

He reminded them that after assuming their basic responsibilities in practical life, they would be confronted with issues like unemployment, poverty, disease, lack of education, and delayed response to public problems.

Appreciating the civil bureaucracy, the prime minister said that he personally knew a number of good officers who had strived to serve the country by shedding their sweat and blood.

In a veiled reference to the previous government, the prime minister said baseless allegations were levelled against certain officers which caused embarrassment for their families.

He said due to such a situation, the civil bureaucrats, thought twice before taking any step in the performance of their duties which was a real stumbling block.

The prime minister stressed that it should be a collective agenda of them all and the political hierarchy to provide an enabling environment for the civil bureaucracy to serve the masses with dedication. If an amicable environment was provided to the civil servants, they could excel to their full potential, he added.

He observed that in the world, there was not a difficulty that could be surmounted.

Referring to the performance of the bureaucracy, the prime minister cited that he had set a two-month target for the civil administration for the establishment of education facilities in one of the flood-affected areas of Balochistan and during his recent visit to the province, he admired them for establishing a smart school within the stipulated timeframe.

Terming them as "future of Pakistan", the prime minister expressed the optimism that they would perform with dedication and honesty as the nation had attached expectations to them.

“Let’s move to transform Pakistan into Quaid’s vision and strive to turn it stronger. The people will remember you for your yeoman’s service,” he added.

The prime minister also congratulated the officers of PAS on the completion of their courses and said that they were the brightening stars of the nation, holding keys to the country’s future in their hands.

He also commended them for serving the flood-affected people and visiting different areas of the country.