Vows to steer Pakistan out of economic crisis in 14 months; Stresses on self-reliance; Admits country drowning under debts
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that he was informed by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail that Pakistan could receive $2 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Miftah Ismail relayed a message in the morning saying that we will hopefully be receiving not $1bn from the IMF, but $2bn. I replied by saying that our real goal is [achieving] self-reliance. Easier said than done,” the premier said while addressing the ‘Turnaround Pakistan’ conference organised by the Ministry of Planning and Development. The premier stressed the need for all quarters to work together for the country’s progress as well as the need for self-reliance. Self-reliance guarantees political and economic independence, he said.
Talking about the recent opening of a mega development project in Bangladesh, PM Shehbaz said that his counterpart had proudly announced that they had achieved this feat without the help of international donors.
“Surely, this is a big achievement,” he said, adding that Pakistan was not lacking in resources or expertise.
He cited the example of Reko Diq, saying Pakistan had wasted billions but had yet to earn anything from the project. PM Shehbaz said that Pakistan was drowning under debts, saying the country’s liabilities far outweighed its assets. He regretted that the 1,200-megawatt Haveli Bahadur Shah Power Plant, set up by the former PML-N government, had still not been completed. “If you look at the electricity we were supposed to get, which was supposed to run the agriculture sector, our industries, [and] give millions employment; when you take all of this into account, then we suffered a colossal loss.”
During his speech, the premier said that Pakistan had nothing to show after 75 years of independence. “But nothing will be achieved by crying over spilled milk,” he asserted.
He went on to say that a few weeks ago, there was a danger of the country running out of edible oil. He said he wrote to Indonesian President Joko Widodo in this regard and also spoke to him on the phone.
“The Indonesian president said he would issue instructions,” he said, adding that he directed a minister to go to the country at his own expense, where he stayed until the vessels departed for Pakistan.
“This is one example. When you want to work then countless doors open.” PM Shehbaz went on to say that Pakistan was facing countless issues as he called for rising above personal interests and differences.
“New governments blame the previous governments. We need to decide on changing the country’s fate and for that we need to work day and night. Unless this is done, we will keep moving in circles,” he said. In his speech, the finance minister said that the government will be bringing builders and furniture dealers into the tax net.
“I will be bringing builders, real estate agents, car dealers, carpenters … all these people into the tax net. And I will make things easier for them,” he stated, stressing that Pakistan could only become “self-reliant” if everyone, including the affluent, paid taxes.
“We have imposed taxes on the prime minister’s sons. I am also paying more tax. We can only ask the nation to sacrifice if we do the same,” he pointed out.
He reasoned that the government had imposed direct taxes as opposed to non-direct as the former were non-inflationary. “This year, we will take 33pc more tax than last year which is an achievement.” The minister also cautioned that although Pakistan was no longer in danger of defaulting, it was still important for the government and the people to tread carefully and “stay disciplined”.