ISLAMABAD: The leaders of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Thursday presented a dismal picture of the state of economy in the country due to “failed fiscal policies” of the present Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government as former finance minister Ishaq Dar stressed the need for having a “serious review” of the economic policy to bring Pakistan out of the economic ‘mess’.
“We need a serious review of the economic policy. If we do not do this then we do not have a very bright future,” feared Mr Dar while speaking at a pre-budget seminar, organised by his party in Islamabad, through a video link from London.
PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif presided over the seminar, also through a video link from Lahore.
Mr Dar said that soon after coming into power, they had offered talks on ‘Charter of Economy’, but regretted that no one paid heed to it.
In the seminar, the PML-N leaders lashed out at the present rulers for what they called bringing the country to the verge of disaster and presented a comparison of the economic indicators in 2018 when they left the government and after the three-year rule of the PTI.
Mr Dar, who has been living in self-exile in London, in his nearly 35-minute speech, apprised the participants of the seminar of the five-year performance of the PML-N government between 2013 and 2018. He said that before the 2013 general elections, Pakistan had been declared a “macro-economically instable country”. He said when the PML-N came into power in 2013, the country was facing numerous challenges, including terrorism and power crisis.
Mr Dar said that despite the fact that political instability was created in the country “through sponsored sit-ins”, the PML-N government under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif delivered and fulfilled its promises, including end of loadshedding from the country by the year 2018.
He said it was during the PML-N government that security forces carried Operation Zarb-i-Azb against terrorism. He said the money for the operation was approved through a supplementary grant in 2015 as the operation had been launched in 2014 when the federal budget had already been approved.
Criticising the economic policies of the present government, Mr Dar said the rulers neither knew governance nor had they competence. He alleged that due to failed fiscal policy of the present government, the people had already been robbed of Rs6,000 billion.
The former finance minister said the country’s economy had already been “grounded” even before the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that on the one hand, the government had drastically cut the development budget and, on the other hand, its current expenditures had increased manifold.
Former governor of Sindh Muhammad Zubair criticised the government for its lack of consistency and said that four finance ministers had been changed in three years. He said first finance minister of the PTI government Asad Umer, who had been known as “poster boy” and who had been portrayed as the key reformer for 10 years, was changed within eight months.
PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal castigated the government for cut in the higher education budget. He said the government had not only reduced the higher education budget, in fact, it had abolished the Higher Education Commission. He said the schemes of distributing laptops and scholarships among the students started by the PML-N government had also been abolished by the present government.
Mr Iqbal said the country’s economy was run on sentiments and wondered which investor would turn to Pakistan when Prime Minister Imran Khan at the highest world forums would declare Pakistan as a country of money launderers and corrupts.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that when the PML-N government left in 2018, circular debt of the power sector was Rs1,150bn, which had now reached Rs2,150bn in three years. He predicted that in the next two years, it would touch Rs3,000bn mark.
He said the average power tariff during the PML-N tenure was Rs11.72 per unit, which had now reached over Rs19 per unit in three years. He said when that the PML-N left the government in 2018, the country’s GDP was $315bn and after three-year rule of the PTI, it had now reduced to $296bn.