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Nation’s future lies in democratic, liberal Pakistan, says Nawaz

Pledges end to power outages by Dec 2017; says govt achieved important development targets during two-and-a-half years

By our correspondents
November 05, 2015
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said the nation’s future lies in a democratic and liberal Pakistan where the private sector thrives and no one is left behind.
The prime minister made a public commitment to end loadshedding by December 2017. “The government is building three major gas-based power plants and by 2017, when the new plants come online, we expect to end loadshedding in Pakistan,” Nawaz said while addressing the second Pakistan Investment Conference here.
In addition, he said the government was working on a number of hydel projects including the fourth extension to the Tarbela Dam and Dasu hydropower project. “Our focus is not just on ending loadshedding in Pakistan once and for all. We are aiming to lay the foundations of a robust energy sector that will meet the country’s needs for the next two decades,” he noted.
Nawaz also used the opportunity to highlight his government’s performance during the last two-and-a-half years. The PM said that the results of the recent by-elections and local government elections indicated that the people of Pakistan had acknowledged and appreciated the tough choices his government had made while undertaking reforms.
Nawaz said the government has achieved important development targets during its two- and-a-half years tenure. The PM said that days after being elected, and even before taking the oath of office, they were engaged with the Chinese leadership to plan and formulate what would later be called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an energy and infrastructure programme with investments of about $46 billion in Pakistan.
“This programme when implemented will help end power outages in Pakistan, and ensure seamless connectivity between China, South Asia and Central Asia. We expect that the increased trade on this corridor will render our Gwadar port one of the busiest in the region, and will herald the dawn of development for the whole of Balochistan. We also intend to set up around 25 industrial zones along the three routes of the corridor, providing thousands of jobs to our people,” he maintained.
The prime minister said that just weeks after coming to power, his government paid around Rs480 billion for the outstanding stock of the power sector’s circular debt.
“We have taken measures to curtail further debt by raising and rationalising power tariffs. These were difficult decisions to make but we made them to open the way for more investments in the power sector. We have therefore seen the commencement of projects in coal, solar, LNG and wind power. We will soon see these projects’ commission,” he added.
To underscore his commitment to austerity and prudence, he said that during his first year inoffice his government cut non-salary government expenditure by 30 percent. “At the Prime Minister’s Office, the expenses were cut by 40 percent. These and other politically difficult measures, including increasing the sales tax from 16 to 17 percent, have helped us cut our fiscal deficit from 8.8 percent to around 5 percent in just two years,” he said.
This fiscal prudence, combined with reduction in the growth in money supply had resulted in year-on-year inflation coming down to less than 2 percent last month and interest rates at the historically low levels.
“Our macroeconomic fundamentals are pointing in the right direction. We are ready to get high levels of investments from domestic and foreign sources. Our minister for finance will tell you the story of Pakistan’s remarkable economic turnaround tomorrow. I would like to add here that the Pakistan’s economic turnaround has been duly noticed and acknowledged by credit rating agencies like Standard and Poor, Moody and Fitch, as well as respected publications like Forbes and the Economist,” he maintained.
He said, “It is our desire is to have both peace and security within our borders and outside our borders. We want friendly relations with all the nations in our region, and the world at large. I am particularly focused on improving regional trade, investment and economic connectivity. We want to progress very fast on major regional connectivity interventions like CASA 1000, TAPI Gas Pipeline and proposed road connections to Central Asia through China and Afghanistan,” he mentioned.
“TAPI gas pipeline will bring gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. CASA 1000 is an electricity transmission project among Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he added.
“The government has undertaken execution of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fired power plants that will produce 3,600 megawatts electricity at a rate of 7 cents per unit,” said Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi while speaking at the same platform.
Secretary Water and Power Younus Dagha said that in last nine months, the ministry reduced line losses from 19 percent to 18.2 percent and improved bills recovery from 88.6 percent to 90 percent.
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir adds: The conference is taking place under the auspices of Board of Investment (BOI) and it is being attended by more than 600 delegates.
“I can confidently say that our direction is set, and we are now implementing our nation’s economic and democratic agenda. Driving a democratic Pakistan forward in its journey towards an economically vibrant future is a labour of love for me,” the prime minister said.
Nawaz recalled that the government’s programme was built around four pillars, the four E’s. These were, first, elimination of extremism and terrorism, second, economic development, third, ensuring continuous and affordable supply of energy, and finally enabling the entire society to have access to education and health. “Our fundamental principle in running the government and achieving these goals has been to observe the highest standards of probity, fairness and transparency,” he added.
The premier said the government aims to create a progressive society where children — boys and girls — can go to school and get educated, where healthcare is available to everyone irrespective of their financial condition, where a bright young person can get college and university education, and where jobs are available to their seekers on a fair basis. “We recognise private sector to be the engine as well as the purveyor of economic growth. We want the government to stay out of the market as an operator, and like it to only regulate efficient markets and provide helping hand to those in need,” he said.
“Our programmes are not just limited to the poor. To ensure that the best and the bright in our society are not left out of academic opportunity, we are running a programme to pay college fees for qualified students,” he said, adding that the government has also initiated a loans’ programme for the youth to help them start small businesses and provide employment to others.