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September 21, 2019

PM seeks new narrative to defend govt economic policies

Top Story

September 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: After witnessing many ministers and ministers of state showing reluctance to come up publicly for defending the economic policies of the incumbent regime, Prime Minister Imran Khan has assigned the job to Minister for Planning as he got briefing on economic issues from him in order to build a narrative for winning support of the masses.

Many ministers and ministers of state have left the premier in the lurch, as they are reluctant to come publicly to defend the policies on face of bombardment from independent economists and media arguing that the ongoing IMF programme would result into dropping millions of people into cruel clutches of poverty and unemployment.

Top cabinet sources told The News on Friday that Prime Minister Imran Khan sought briefing from Minister for Planning Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar on different economic issues confronting Pakistan’s economy last week in order to conduct detailed analysis and then devise prescription to build narrative in support of the government.

This idea was basically floated by Minister of Power Omar Ayub who said during the cabinet meeting that the assignment of macrocosmic analysis should be given to Planning Commission to listen to more points of view before building any feasible narrative to win the support for government on economic policies.

Soon after the briefing last week, Adviser to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh addressed a hurriedly called press conference on last Sunday at PID as he came up with the strategy to cope with rising challenges.

The Planning Ministry in its analysis argued that the budget deficit that exceeded to 8.9 percent of GDP from envisaged target of 7.2 percent for the last financial year was mainly escalated because of FBR and non-tax revenue shortfall. Out of total Rs800 billion escalation in the deficit, around Rs780 billion was contributed by revenue shortfall. It was one of the phenomena and hoping that it will not be repeated in the current fiscal year, according to the prescription given by Planning Commission in its presentation before the premier. In this ongoing fiscal year, the government is relying upon maximising non-tax revenues through renewal of licences of mobile operators to the tune of Rs210 billion in totality as Rs70 billion from each, selling out two RLNG plants at estimated cost of Rs300 billion and privatisation of many other entities.

The PTI-led government, according to Planning Commission, is largely betting upon improved performance of agriculture sector as they projected that the agriculture growth might rebound into positive 3 to 3.5 percent against negative growth in last five years. With improved agriculture, the overall GDP growth is projected to exceed the target of 2.4 percent for the current fiscal year.

On other hand, former finance minister Asad Umar also held meeting with Prime Minister Imran not on economic issues but largely on issues related to Metro Project lying incomplete and unutilised from last several months. As Rawalpindi Transport Authority (RTA) of Punjab refused to take over this Metro project in the federal capital, Asad Umar met the premier to establish separate transport authority in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to give push to this project which is becoming a white elephant despite spending billions of rupees in heart of federal capital. However, Asad Umar is not ruling out possibility of joining the government again, said the sources and added that it is not yet known on which portfolio he may be inducted into cabinet.

In the aftermath of witnessing heated debate in the cabinet meeting under chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan a couple of weeks back, the government came up with establishment of media monitoring cell at Ministry of Finance under supervision of Special Secretary/spokesman Omar Hamid Khan and comprising Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, Economic Adviser Ministry of Finance and Hamid Reza Watoo DG Media in order to monitor economy related news in the media for immediate rejoinder/rebuttal/clarifications. Instead of placing Media Monitoring Cell, the government should come up with Media Engagement Cell by adopting proactive approach instead of reactive strategy.

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