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Friday July 19, 2024

The PTI’s legacy

By Dr Farrukh Saleem
December 25, 2022

Right now the most unenviable job in Pakistan is that of the finance minister – the most difficult, rather undesirable and quite unpleasant. The PML-N expects him to preserve the party’s political capital and prepare the economic ground for the upcoming election.

Everyone else in the country expects him to give them all sorts of reliefs. The IMF expects him to bring down the trade deficit, the budget deficit, the current account deficit and the rate of inflation. The IMF also expects him to somehow burst the ballooning circular debt both in the electricity and the gas sector. We also expect him to stitch together $32 billion to fill our gross external financing requirement. Right now the most thankless job in Pakistan is also that of the finance minister – hard work, extra long hours but very few rewards.

A legacy is a gift, money or property left to a person by someone who is no more. Here are the six ‘gifts’ left behind by the PTI government:

National debt: From 1947 to 2018, when the PTI government took over, we had accumulated total debt and liabilities of Rs30,000 billion. In 2022, by the end of the PTI government, our total debt and liabilities had skyrocketed to Rs60,000 billion. Imagine: it took us 71 years to accumulate debt and liabilities of Rs30,000 billion – and then a mere 44 months to add additional debt and liabilities of Rs30,000 billion.

Electricity: In 2018, when the PTI government took over, the circular debt stood at Rs1,100 billion. Over the following 1,331 days, the PTI government added Rs1 billion a day, every day. On April 10, 2022 – the last day of the PTI government – circular debt had swollen to Rs2.5 trillion.

Gas: In 2018, when the PTI government took over, the circular debt stood at Rs350 billion. Over the following 1,331 days, the PTI government added Rs800 million a day, every day. On April 10, 2022 – the last day of the PTI government – circular debt had swollen to Rs1.4 trillion.

PSO: In 2018, when the PTI government took over, PSO’s circular debt stood at Rs200 billion. Over the following 1,331 days, the PTI government added Rs340 million a day, every day. On April 10, 2022 – the last day of the PTI government – PSO’s circular debt had swollen to Rs650 billion.

Trade deficit: On April 10, 2022 – the day Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif assumed office as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan – Pakistan’s trade deficit was projected to be $45 billion, the highest that it has ever been in Pakistan’s entire 75-year financial history.

Budget deficit: On April 10, 2022 – the day Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif assumed office as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan – Pakistan’s budget deficit was projected to be Rs5,500 billion, the highest that it has ever been in Pakistan’s entire 75-year financial history.

On April 10, 2022 our economy was in a deep, deep well. The PDM government must stop digging.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. He tweets @saleemfarrukh and can be reached at: farrukh15@hotmail.com