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Fawad cites Dar’s “Criminal Acts” for Economic woes

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News Analysis |

Information minister Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday lambasted the opposition for orchestrating the economic crises facing Pakistan’s beleaguered economy in a debate over the much-debated mini-budget in the National Assembly. The PTI leader held the previous regimes, particularly—Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party responsible for the economic quagmire.

Responding to the recent criticism over the direction and the economic policies of the incumbent government, the minister blasted the opposition parties for leaving the economy in a bad state. Commenting on the recent rhetoric of opposition, which termed the PTI’s call for donations a “begging policy”, Chaudhary remarked, “The opposition is urging us not to run the country on donations.” But, he questioned, “What options and choices do we have?”

Shahbaz spent billions on metro bus services in multiple cities in Punjab and was costing Rs8 billion to exchequer annually, [Since he kept the ticket price so low].

The opposition parties are trying to give the incumbent government a tough time early in its tenure and are adamant that the recently approved gas price hike would result in inflation and an eventual slowdown in the economy as the cost of doing business would increase. PTI, on the contrary, rejects this narrative. Chaudhary, in a befitting reply to PPP’s Naveed Qamar, argued that government has been in power for only a few weeks, and the economic crises facing the country was the consequence of the visionless policies of past regimes. He held former finance minister, Ishaq Dar- who is now an absconder- responsible for the state of the economy, and labeled his economic policies, a “criminal act”.

He explained that the government inherited “empty coffers” with hardly enough foreign exchange to cover the import bill of one and a half month. He repeated the public debt figure often quoted by Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speeches. He informed the house that in 2008 when PPP came into power, the public debt accumulated; since independence till 2008 the debt stood at Rs6 trillion and PPP secured a staggering Rs 9 trillion in debt during its tenure. And, then the PML-N surpassed the reckless PPP economic policy. While taking a jibe at the PML-N, the minister said, in the last five years, during the time of these experienced Aristotle debts ballooned to over Rs28 trillion.

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He questioned the parliamentarians that who was responsible for the extraordinary mess, the government that took control 21 days ago or the experienced ones, who ruled the country for a decade? Chaudhary questioned the lavish spending patterns of the previous government and accused Dar of flying to London, many times on the private plane of former disqualified PM Nawaz Sharif. He termed “Dar and the company” the “biggest criminals of the country” who was allowed to get out of the country on a former premier’s plane.

Continuing his tirade against the former government, he claimed that the leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif spent Rs 11 trillion alone [in the last decade]. Shahbaz spent billions on metro bus services in multiple cities in Punjab and was costing Rs8 billion to exchequer annually, [Since he kept the ticket price so low]. Criticizing the “criminal” economic policies of the PML-N government, he said, “Every department in the country was in disarray.”

The bulk of the debt is allocated at debt servicing and lack of funds for infrastructure and inclusive development and underutilization of loans on asset building further deteriorate the precarious debt positioning.

He cited the example of Radio Pakistan, which faces a dire situation because the treasury had no money to pay salaries of the staff. “Should we borrow more to pay salaries and run the country as our experienced predecessors,” he asked. The PTI government is formulating a strategy to reduce the disparity between the rich and poor with new economic policies and aims to end the support for the super-rich, who ruined the country and put it on the brink of financial collapse. It can be asserted that Chaudhary’s outburst makes sense. The previous regimes are certainly responsible for securing an extraordinary level of public loans.

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The problem is that Pakistan has been unable to invest in projects which can yield high returns than the rate of interest paid on the loans, resulting in a decline in government’s revenues and export earnings. The bulk of the debt is allocated at debt servicing and lack of funds for infrastructure and inclusive development and underutilization of loans on asset building further deteriorate the precarious debt positioning. Infrastructural development is certainly important but ignoring the development of inclusive institutions is a disaster which should not be replicated again as it was done under previous regimes.

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