IMF urges Pak to seize chance of economic transformation

Govt to focus on growth, job creation: Dar

Mian Arshad

Islamabad—The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on Pakistan to seize opportunity to complete economic transformation According to a statement issued by IMF on the conclusion of visit of Managing Director Christine Lagarde to Pakistan, she offered condolences to the Pakistani people for the tragic loss of lives at the Quetta attack overnight. We are deeply sorry for the families of those who lost their lives in this horrific attack. She thanked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Central Bank Governor Ashraf Wathra, and other senior government officials for their productive exchange of views and their warm hospitality during my visit to Islamabad.
She congratulated Pakistan on having successfully completed its IMF-supported economic reform program. Improved macroeconomic stability as well as strengthened external buffers and public finances will provide a solid foundation for the economy. Many tax exemptions and concessions have been removed, and higher tax revenue has allowed for greater public investment and social spending.
About 1.5 million more poor households are benefiting from targeted social assistance than three years ago. Power outages have gradually decreased and the financial performance of the power sector is strengthening. A country-wide strategy to improve the business climate is being implemented.
“ Much has been achieved and much more remains to be done, so this is Pakistan’s moment of opportunity to forcefully address remaining economic challenges and lay the foundation for more private sector job creation and higher living standards for all segments of society” she stated.
The Finance Minister said besides consolidating gains of the last three years, the government would focus for the next two years on growth, creation of job opportunities, poverty reduction and creating space for social sector spending. “This has been reflected in the current year’s budget, which is aimed at broadening tax net and improving financial disciple,” he said.
The minister said: “Development spending has been increased from Rs300 billion three years back to Rs800 billion this year, social safety net expenses taken from Rs40 to Rs117 billion and budgetary support for higher education has been increased substantially.” Dar also expressed pleasure that for the first time the country has completed an IMF programme and embarked upon comprehensive economic and financial reforms.
Responding to various questions, the Finance Minister dispelled the impression that there was 4 percent increase in tax to GDP rate, clarifying that the ratio increased due to elimination of SROs and introduction of reforms programme. He said that there has been considerable decrease in budget deficit and expressed the hope for further decline in it.
To a question related to upcoming PTI protest programme, the minister said that law would take its course, adding that nobody was above constitution and law. The Finance Minister said that government has increased it spending on Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) from Rs.300 billion in 2013 to Rs.800 billion in 2016.

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