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Shahbaz casts doubt on govt’s rosy economic forecast

May 30, 2021

Ag Agencies

LAHORE: Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Saturday called into question the government’s optimistic economic forecasts, as he cited contraction in the figures of per capita income and GDP and rise in unemployment as the basis to dismiss the forthcoming “IMF budget”.

Shahbaz’s remarks came in response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s tweet, in which the latter commended the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) efforts in “crossing historic milestone of Rs4,000 billion in any year for first time ever”.

“During July-May, our collections reached Rs4,143 billion and still counting — 18 per cent higher than same period last year. This reflects broad-based economic revival spurred by government policies,” Khan said. In a statement posted on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Twitter, Shahbaz responded: “Despite imposing additional taxes every year, the PTI government is lagging behind in tax collections. At the end of our government, the tax-to-GDP [ratio] was 13 per cent, which has come down by 10.9 per cent in three years.”

The PML-N chief said the people “have rejected both the IMF budget and the government that brought it”. He also compared the two governments. “When the PML-N left power in 2018, the size of the Pakistani economy (GDP) was $313 billion. In the three years of Imran Niazi’s rule, the size of the economy has reached $296 billion.”

Shahbaz said the direct purchasing power of Pakistanis has declined by 13 per cent, while in the last year of the PML-N government in 2017-18, per capita income was $1,560, and in 2020-21, it has come down to $1,431.

“In the three years since PTI, per capita income has declined by more than 8 per cent,” the PML-N president said. “For the first time in history, our GDP has fallen in dollar [terms] in three years.”

When the PML-N government completed its term, there were 3.5 million unemployed people in Pakistan, Shahbaz said. He added: “PTI laid off an additional five million people in three years. Today, the number of unemployed people in the country has reached 8.5 million. The country’s unemployment rate is at an all-time high of 15 per cent. In the last three years, the income of unskilled workers has declined by more than 18 per cent.” He said the PML-N took the growth rate from 2.8 per cent to 5.8 per cent in five years, while Inflation was reduced from 11.8 to 3.8 per cent and tax revenue doubled from Rs1,946 to Rs3,900 billion. “In three years, PTI’s tax collection has been declining in proportion to GDP.”

Separately, Mohammad Zubair of the PML-N disputed the claims of Planning Minister Asad Umar — his brother — on Twitter. Asad said the country’s economy was “back on the growth path” as he had “predicted two years before in April 2019”. The minister said he had predicted that it would take the economy two years to return to the path of growth and the current growth rate has proven that prediction.

He said that those who are asking how suddenly the economic growth accelerated should watch my video clip where I had said that it will take two years, the minister tweeted while sharing his video clip of April 3, 2019 on the subject.

The federal minister said it was the clear policy of the government of Imran Khan to put the economy on sustainable growth path instead of taking the decision that might have immediate acceptance but were not good for economy.

Zubair said in response: “The economy is in ruins. So let’s not go into that. But even if we agree, what does it say of your Kaptaan who had no clue. Just 15 days after this event, the Kaptaan removed you. Surely he doesn’t understand. That’s why we insist he must go.”