As pre-budget discussions continue in the lower house of Pakistan’s bicameral parliament, the members of the assembly are being taken under confidence by the government benches on the current economic figures.
In the 27 May session chaired by Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, the assembly was informed by the government that Pakistan’s exports are up 13.4 percent to 21 billion dollars during the ten-month fiscal year 2021, from July 2020 to April 2021, as reported by Radio Pakistan.
This is in line with PBS data, which shows a Year-on-Year rise in exports by 13.63 percent in dollar terms.
According to the press release by the national public broadcaster, in response to a question during Question Hour, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Zain Hussain Qureshi said four million metric tons of wheat and sufficient quantity of sugar will be imported to maintain strategic reserves of the commodities.
The facts on exports mentioned above were also an answer to the question on economy, answered by Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce Aliya Hamza Malik. Along with the facts for the current fiscal year, she said that she hoped the exports to touch a high of $25 billion in the coming days.
Regarding price hikes in the country, Ms. Malik said that the rise in inflation is observed globally and is seen as a market response to supply and demand disruption caused by the pandemic. She reportedly provided figures from around the world stating the facts that Iran, Pakistan’s Western neighbor, recorded high inflation of 49.5 percent.
She also mentioned Turkey having 17.1 percent inflation, comparing these two countries to Pakistan, where inflation has seen a hike of 8.6 percent.
To back up this statement, in a recent show with Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, chairman of Pakistan’s top stock brokerage company AKD quoted the same argument, when a similar question was asked from him by Pakistani economist Dr. Farukh Saleem.
According to a statement released by the US government in April, “the inflation is expected to increase somewhat… due to base effects, supply chain disruptions, and pent-up demand…”
Even according to UN, the food costs globally rose for a 10th in March, the longest run of increases since 2008 when the world faced the first two food crises within a few years, Bloomberg wrote in April.
Further, in reply to a question Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, Development, and Reform Kanwal Shauzab said investments under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are expected to be around 50.7 billion dollars. She believed this would create employment opportunities along with a surge in capital inflow in the forms of investments to boost the economy.
According to Radio Pakistan, Ms. Shauzab said that nine Special Economic Zones will be established under CPEC. She said the ML-1 project to upgrade and dualize the rail track from Peshawar to Karachi has the potential to create 174,000 direct jobs.
It is worth mentioning that this project is part of the Rehabilitation & Up-gradation of the Karachi-Lahore Peshawar 1,872 km (ML-1) Railway Track. Other than doubling the track according to the CPEC website, the project would also entail increasing the speed of passenger trains up to 160 km/h, freight trains to 120 km/h. Along with this initiation of computer-based signaling and control systems, and grade separation are also among the scope of the project.
Answering another question regarding Islamic Banking, Mr. Qureshi said the government is taking steps to transform the banking system into Shariah-compliant banking. He said 3456 branches and over 1,000 windows are offering Islamic banking across Pakistan.
He said the State Bank of Pakistan has made it mandatory for commercial banks to reserve 10 percent loans for small and medium enterprises and eight percent for the agricultural sector interest-free.