THE remarks that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is making about talks with and behaviour of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are reflective of the severe economic vulnerabilities of the country that make it virtually subservient to the global lenders.
After publicly acknowledging that the Fund was giving ‘very tough time’ to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team during the ongoing negotiations over the 9th review, the PM, while addressing the AJK Legislative Assembly on the occasion of Kashmir Solidarity Day on Sunday remarked that the Fund was scrutinizing the records of various ministries and reviewing “everything” and “every subsidy”.
The Prime Minister also expressed serious concerns over the country’s ‘begging spree’ that has been continuing for the last 75 years and the need to put a stop to this.
In fact, this should be the priority with the national leadership as the country has almost lost political and economic sovereignty because of its over-dependence on foreign loans. No doubt, experts point out that loans themselves are not bad if they are spent on productive projects and programmes that should help strengthen the country’s capacity and ability to pay back its loans.
However, except for the projects that Pakistan has initiated with the Chinese assistance under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), there are very few foreign-funded projects that have led to acceleration of the economic growth or import substitution. It is a matter of shame that even after over seven decades the country is contracting more loans to pay back previous one and a stage has arrived where we find it difficult to run day-to-day business of the state without foreign inflows. The situation calls for a thorough review of the past policies and a new direction should be evolved through national consensus so as to lessen dependence on clutches of foreign aid that comes with humiliating conditions.
It should be a matter of shame that the shape of the budget for the financial year 2022-23 stands entirely transformed as a result of minute dictation and interference in each and every field and sector by the IMF. We can neither provide relief to the people nor rationalize taxes in keeping with the overall requirements of the country due to gross interference by the Fund. The Prime Minister has done well by convening an All Parties Conference (APC) on the issue of terrorism and extremism and we hope a similar APC would also be convened to draw up an economic roadmap aimed at restoring economic sovereignty of the country.