State minister for revenue says naysayers 'will soon be exposed'

Feb 07 2019

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Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV
Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar on Thursday sought to set the record straight regarding the economic situation of the country and the progress towards its 'recovery' during the first six months of the incumbent government.

The minister said that from August to December 2018, the country received foreign direct investment worth $1.72bn.

"This is more than double the figure reported in the first five months of the previous government," he told reporters at a media conference in Islamabad.

"When it comes to circular debt, the PML-N say they left Pakistan 'happy and prosperous, with rivers of milk flowing and claimed they had had good governance throughout their tenure'," Azhar said in criticism of the rival party's claims, adding that in reality, "the figures more than doubled [in the PML-N's tenure]".

"When they came into power, they first cleared the circular debt without conducting any pre-audits — that's a separate scandal," he said.

"But by the time they left the corridors of power, circular debt had crossed Rs1,000 billion."

Azhar said that if the losses incurred by public sector companies are examined, the total annual loss by these companies stood at Rs190bn when the PML-N took the government's reigns.

The latest data, from financial year 2016-2017, shows that this figure had crossed Rs453bn, the revenue minister said — highlighting the sharp increase in public sector losses by the time the PML-N entered its fourth year in power.

Editorial: Economic transparency

"Our government took charge of a destroyed economy and I think — with the exception of a few from PML-N — that there is near unanimity, even in international institutions, that Pakistan has never experienced a deficit larger than this. However, we took corrective measures to improve the economic situation.

"The result is that if you examine the data from July last year, the trade deficit reduced by 5 per cent, whereas in December alone it fell by 18 per cent," Azhar said.

He said that when his party came into power, Pakistan's imports were growing at a rate of 15 per cent, whereas now imports have witnessed negative growth — meaning that in absolute terms, and even percentage wise, a decline can be seen.

"When we receive January's data, we will have a handsome growth figure when it comes to exports," Azhar remarked confidently.

The minister regretted that whenever there is good news on the economic front — when the stock exchange goes up by 5000 points, or when traders are happy with the economic reforms package, or when there is a visible decline in the current account deficit or a decline in imports — "a few loyalists from the opposition appear on TV [to cast gloom]."

"They expect that the economy that they ruined 'with a lot of effort' over the course of the last five years — especially the way they almost entirely paralysed it over the past year — should create difficulties for the new government. However, when they see the economy move towards stability, it troubles them and they appear before the media immediately and attempt to create panic.

"Those who wish to throw dust in the eyes of the people will continue to be exposed by us," he said resolutely.

"Among all the figures quoted, not even one is such that has not been published and is not in the public domain. They can all be accessed on the internet, or found in reports published by the State Bank of Pakistan or the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics," he said, encouraging every citizen to go and verify the data on their own.

"You will be able to see reports from Reuters as well regarding the downgrading of Pakistan's ratings during PML-N's times," he added, referring to Standard & Poor's recent downgrading of its outlook on Pakistan.

He warned the PML-N to "kindly refrain from citing wrong figures and fooling the people".