Friday October 15, 2021

Opposition contests official economic figures

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Opposition parties on Saturday slammed the government's announcement of Pakistan's expected gross domestic product (GDP) growth — which it estimated would hit 3.94 percent for the fiscal year 2020-21.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said the GDP growth of Pakistan for the FY 2020-21 was estimated at 3.94 percent, as he praised the government's policy for helping the economy grow.

The government had earlier estimated a GDP growth of 2.1 percent for the outgoing fiscal year. The IMF and the World Bank, on the other hand, had predicted the GDP growth in the range of 1.5 percent for the current fiscal year. Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, in a series of tweets, said the country's growth rate was 5.8 percent during the PMLN tenure, but now the premier is claiming a mere 3.9 percent growth rate which is fake. "An SBP (State Bank of Pakistan) representative objected to the figure being overstated. The PTI, in its first year, had increased the original figure from 1.9 percent to 3.3 percent. This year too, they lied," he claimed. The PMLN president said independent economists had predicted a decline in real incomes for Pakistanis this year. "Therefore, the growth rate — put forward by the PTI — this year is also unrealistic, which will be lower when it will be reviewed," he said. Shahbaz said every week since February 05, prices have been showing a 13 percent increase. "Prices have increased by 17 percent this week compared to last year," he said. The PMLN president said middle-class households had faced a severe setback as the inflation rate was so high that the food prices had witnessed an increase of 14 percent.

"Imran Khan is running the country only for his friends," he said.

The opposition leader said the PTI has left five million people unemployed and 20 million in extreme poverty.

"In a successful economy, inflation is low, employment is high, the government plans schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Where does our economy stand?"

Meanwhile, the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the PTI-led government has a unique talent in being "absolutely shameless when it boldly and brazenly misleads the people".

The federal government has, since its first day in office, been fudging numbers and stacking statistics in their favour, Bilawal said in a statement.

“Fudging economic figures may feed the large egos in the government, but it doesn’t feed the people. These alleged facts and figures tantamount to gas-lighting the lived experience of the people who are being crushed under the economic failures of Imran Khan,” he said.

The PPP chairman said that since the PTI formed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa nearly a decade ago, poverty levels had increased exponentially, with figures showing that poverty has gone up from 9 percent to a whopping 27 percent today.

In contrast, under the PPP, he said Sindh had managed to slash the poverty rate by 7.6 percent. He said the PPP government in Sindh has also overseen "Sindh's rise in per capita income", with the province now "leading in both rural and urban figures".

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin said Pakistan witnessed a strong V-shaped growth despite being in a tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

In a tweet, the minister said that IMF programme was necessitated by unsustainable current account deficit and falling foreign currency reserves and a vicious COVID-19. He expressed gratitude for Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team for achieving this growth.

“Well done team Imran Khan Thumbs up FinMinistryPak GovtofPakistan,” he tweeted.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said the National Accounts Committee (NAC) was a non-political committee and the decision of 4 percent growth during the outgoing fiscal year was made with consensus.

The minister said that this was not the PML-N government when the committee was told to announce what they wanted. “Questions were raised in the professional and non-political committee, where data was assessed and decision was made unanimously,” Asad Umar said in his tweet.

Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar said that 4 percent GDP growth rate would be achieved during the current fiscal year.

Addressing a press conference, the minister said all GDP growth related targets had been achieved and it is expected to achieve further pace.

“There are many analyses that the growth rate will be more than 4 percent,” he added.

He said the GDP increase from $263 billion to $296 billion, an increase of $33 billion during the current fiscal year, was the highest ever in any year. He said the country’s foreign exchange reserves had also jumped to $23 billion. He said despite the huge challenge posed to the economy by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s economy witnessed growth and it was a proof of the success of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s economic policies.

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib while talking to the media before inaugurating a dedicated corona ward at National Hospital in Faisalabad said the country would achieve its targets by the end of the financial year despite the daunting challenges.

He said the economy was destroyed during the previous government, adding that Ishaq Dar presented fake figures to show that economy was growing at a faster pace. He said that at that time the economy was entirely dependent on the foreign loans, while the rulers were painting a rosy picture of the economy.

"We had no money to clear the import bill. The government was unable to arrange for $10 billion to pay back the mandatory instalment of the loans," he added.

Farrukh Habib said that the PML-N government had presented fake figure of 5.5 percent growth rate. He said that at that time country’s imports stood at $60 billion whereas the exports were only $20 billion. There was a huge trade gap of $40 billion and the current account deficit was $19.2 billion. He said the foreign reserves with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) were dwindling at $9 billion. He said that the previous government got record loans of $11.7 billion and there was no real time growth and the loans were utilised to purchase properties in London. He said the policies of Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar were based on cosmetics.

Regarding the per capita income, he challenged Muhammad Zubair of the PMLN, Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Zardari and said that it was $1,496 during the tenure of previous government. He said now it has jumped to $1,608, which was clearly indicating that the people were enjoying positive impacts of steady economic growth.

Special Assistant to PM on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said in tweets that even staunch critics are praising the government for nearly 4 percent GDP growth which shows that Pakistan is moving towards sustainable growth. He said Pakistan will not face the mountain of current account deficit this year.