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August 12, 2020

Nothing unusual about Saudi loan return: Shibli

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August 12, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Shibli Faraz Tuesday said Pakistan has always valued its brotherly relationship with Saudi Arabia and looking at “routine matters with suspicion is not in the country’s interest”. While addressing the media in Islamabad following the federal cabinet meeting, he dispelled the speculations that Islamabad’s relations with Riyadh have deteriorated lately. Responding to a question on Saudi loan payment of $1 billion, he said the loans are meant to be returned and there is nothing unusual about it.

The federal cabinet was given briefing on the status of the national economy and it was noted with satisfaction that it headed in a positive direction despite the COVID-19 factor while the current account deficit had been brought down from $20 billion to dollars $3 billion.

Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh briefed the federal cabinet, chaired over by Prime Minister Imran Khan here, on the status of economy on the completion of two years of the PTI-led government, and noted that the current account deficit had been brought down from $20 billion to $3 billion.

Shibli Faraz said that the cabinet was informed that the policy of encouraging exports and discouraging unnecessary imports had paid dividends. He said the prime minister’s policy of cutting down government expenses had also produced significant results and financial expenditure had been cut down by 1 percent.

Moreover, the minister continued that because of the government’s prudent economic policies, the State Bank of Pakistan foreign exchange reserves had increased from $8.5 billion to $12.5 billion. He also talked about various government initiatives aimed at ameliorating the common man.

Besides, the stimulus package and record subsidy to the Utility Stores Corporation (USC), he pointed out that the government had given a historic package for the construction sector as resumption of construction activities would create jobs and provide housing facilities to the poor, besides incentivising the builders by massively reducing taxes.

Shibli said that the economic wheel had begun moving again steadily and he noted that there had been increase in sales of cement, consumption of petrol went up by 8 percent and diesel by 15 per cent and despite the virus greatly affected businesses and industry was almost closed at one time, there had been additional collection of revenue by Rs300 billion, which was 23 percent more than the target in July. Likewise, in the month of July, exports reached $2 billion mark.

The minister noted that with the resumption of economic activities, exports increased and stock exchange had shown significant growth, being the indication of economic stability. He said that international institutions had given better ratings to Pakistan’s economy, which was a sign of its economic stability.

However, Shibli noted that the government had to take difficult decisions but now hard times had almost passed and good times were ahead for the nation. He asserted that those, who wanted strict lockdown, were nowhere to be seen now after the prime minister took firm decisions and then stuck to them despite opposition from such elements and by the blessings of Allah, these worked in the corona-infested environment, which was now almost gone from Pakistan. The minister said the corona policy of Pakistan was being appreciated all over the world.

The cabinet was given briefing on encroachments of Margalla Road and it was informed that during the past one and a half years, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had managed to retrieve land worth Rs450 billion. He said that encroachments on Srinagar Highway were removed and trees were planted there and Quaid-i-Azam University land under the illegal occupation of land mafia was recovered.

The minister said that the CDA chairman was directed to provide facilities to slums and provide business opportunities to the poor people running kiosks on CDA land. The cabinet was told that the process of scrutiny of the licences of pilots would be completed by next month.

The cabinet decided to celebrate Independence Day in a befitting manner and with a renewed pledge to secure the future of the young generation and ensure also level-playing field and better job opportunities and to rid the nation of loans, enabling it to take independent decisions.

About the outsourcing of airports and related matters, he said that the entire process would be completed within 90 days and first all, legislation would be enacted and legal complications be removed. He noted there were about 27 airports across Pakistan and barring four or five, the rest were not generating revenue.The prime minister was informed that payments of Rs891 million were made to the media houses, whereas the remaining dues would be cleared at the earliest and that the ministry had thrashed out a mechanism to ensure no such delays occur in future.