ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar portrayed a rosy picture of economy at a briefing on Thursday but had to face criticism by PML-N lawmakers who said agriculture sector had been ignored by the ministry.
Hailing from central and southern Punjab, around a dozen PML-N legislators criticised the government of their own party for its failure to come to rescue of the agriculture sector which had suffered losses because of floods and seasonal changes since the PML-N came to power.
“It’s good to hear that the national economy is recovering fast but what about us farmers who have suffered losses over the last two years. Last year, there were floods and this year unseasonal rains have ruined the wheat crop,” said a member of National Assembly when asked for his input after Senator Dar made the presentation.
Mr Dar briefed the parliamentary party of PML-N about salient features of budget 2015-16 at its pre-budget meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his office.
Another MNA with agriculture background said: “If our own government does not take care of us, who else should we approach for addressing our concerns.”
Despite repeated reminders and raising the issue at different forums of the Punjab and federal governments, they had not received any encouraging response, said another lawmaker.
The common concern shared by the lawmakers was the government’s failure to announce better support price for corps and provide compensation for the losses suffered by farmers over the past two years. A legislator asked why the federal government did not take measures to stop wheat import last year despite the fact that the country had adequate stock.
Talking to Dawn after the meeting, an MNA from central Punjab, the area known for producing Basmati, said because of last year’s bumper crop, “this year the government has started warning farmers against growing rice”. What else farmers should grow then, he asked.
In reply to a question, he said as usual the presentation was all about complex facts and figures which were of no interest to many of the participants.
Some lawmakers also raised the issue of delay in announcing development schemes because of which, they said, they had to face ire of their constituents.
After patiently listening to the concerns of lawmakers, according to a PML-N insider, the prime minister assured them that the issue of support price would be taken up during the budget session of parliament and other issues raised by them would be addressed in the next budget.
He directed the finance minister to hold a separate meeting with the MNAs having agricultural background to work out a plan to remove their grievances.
Talking about the constraints which had rendered his government unable to help farmers, Mr Sharif said: “Non-serious politics of a politician harmed the government and didn’t allow me to fully utilise the last two years.”
“Although, I have stopped taking the politician seriously and don’t reply to his statements anymore, he continues to create problems for the government,” he said.
The prime minister was obviously referring to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan who had kept the government under tremendous pressure during his party’s over 100-day sit-in in Islamabad.
Published in Dawn June 5th, 2015