MINISTER for Finance and Revenue Senator Ishaq Dar Friday rubbished rumours regarding a need of imposing a financial emergency, castigating Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan for propagating “fake news” about the country’s possible default. Addressing a news conference, he blamed the previous PTI government for pushing the nation of 220 million people on the brink of default; claiming that it was the coalition government that saved the country by prioritising the state over their politics. Dar recalled that when the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) ousted Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion in April last year, the coalition government’s leaders had decided to keep aside all political interests for the sake of the supreme national interests.
It is, no doubt, the duty and responsibility of the Ppposition to keep a check on the performance of the Government and offer criticism where due but there should be red-lines for the purpose because of the precarious nature of the challenges facing the country these days. The Government is trying its utmost to avoid a default and it is the duty of each and every citizen to support all endeavours aimed at stabilizing the economy. Irresponsible statements about impending default and exaggerated accounts of the situation offer an opportunity to unscrupulous elements to take full advantage of the vulnerabilities of the Government. It is our collective responsibility to steer the country out of the troubled waters but different mafias prefer sucking blood of the people during these testing times. There are indications that the most difficult phase is going to end soon as the IMF deal is close to signing and our time-tested friend China has, once again, come to our rescue. The Finance Minister revealed that China has renewed a facility under which Pakistan expected an additional inflow of $500 million in the “next few days”. Pakistan returned $1.3 billion to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) recently and arrangements have been finalized for renewal of this facility and as a result the country would receive back the amount in three tranches. It may also be mentioned that China already provided $700 million a few days back, which helped shore up our foreign exchange reserves at a critical time. It is because of the political support being extended by the Chinese Government and cash assistance that the rupee recovered its losses by over six rupees in a day.
The coalition government and its economic team, led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, also deserve credit for their hard work that has started paying dividends as the foreign exchange reserves held by the SBP climbed to $3.8 billion from $2.8 billion — recorded last month. This is despite the fact that the government returned $6.5 billion of foreign debt during the current fiscal year. The Minister also declared that the Government has a definite roadmap and a comprehensive plan to steer the country out of the existing economic crisis. One hopes the plan would not put additional burden on the common man and recovery would be done through innovative strategies. The idea to increase the rate of GST (to 25%) on the luxury items like aircraft and boats/ships for pleasure, recreation and private use, jewellery, wristwatches and vehicles above 1400cc is appreciable but the tendency of taxing even food items and hiking tariff of electricity and gas must come to an end. One can imagine the plight of the common man as weekly inflation rose to 41.07 per cent on a year-on-year basis for the week that ended on 2 March.