ISLAMABAD: Lambasting the government for increasing petroleum prices in quick succession and its “visionless” economic policies, the opposition parties have expressed the fear that the country has entered an era of “stagflation”.
Speaking at a news conference at National Press Club on Saturday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi presented a comparison of the economic conditions in the country at the time of the completion of their government’s five-year term on May 31 last year and the present state of economy under the nine-month rule of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and alleged that the present rulers had put the country’s “sovereignty” at stake.
Accompanied by former finance minister Miftah Ismail and information secretary of the PML-N Marryium Aurangzeb, Mr Abbasi explained that a country with high inflation and low growth was stated to be in the “stagflation state” that was a “dangerous term”.
“There has been an unprecedented economic meltdown in the country,” Mr Abbasi said while presenting various figures highlighting the economic conditions under the PML-N government and the present state of economy.
Mr Abbasi alleged that the country’s foreign policy and national security issues had become dependent on the economic policies. “Either you can save economy or foreign policy,” the former PM said, adding that a country with weak economy could not sustain strong military.
Replying to a question, he said it had become necessary for everyone to lodge a strong protest against the government inside and outside the parliament and “if it is needed to topple the government, we should try to do it.”
Mr Abbasi said the “experiment” of installing a “selected government” had failed.
The former premier said there had never been such a big devaluation of currency against US dollar within a year. He said the devaluation of Pakistani rupee had not only caused inflation, it had reduced the purchasing power of a common man.
The PML-N leader regretted the government had increased the petroleum prices for a second consecutive time whereas oil prices in the international market had been stagnant.
About prices of basic commodities, Mr Abbasi said there had been an increase of 30 per cent in sugar price, 13pc in the price of ghee and 10pc in the rate of wheat flour. Moreover, he said electricity price had been increased up to 23pc whereas the gas prices for the consumers using over 400 units had hiked up to 123pc.
According to him, when the PML-N government completed its term, inflation rate was 3.9pc that has now surged to 7.5 per cent within just nine months. If the same trend continued, he said, the inflation might hit 12pc mark by the end of the current financial year. He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government was facing a shortfall of Rs400 billion to Rs500bn in the revenue target that it had set for itself. He said the government had miserably failed to increase its revenue.
Despite tall claims about austerity measures, the government expenditures had increased to Rs7,000bn from the last year’s Rs5,700bn, he said. However, there had been a reduction of Rs175bn in the development budget as compared to the last year.
The ex-PM said the total value of foreign debt was Rs15,000bn when the PML-N came to power in 2013 that rose to Rs25,000bn when it handed over the government to the PTI. However, the foreign debt within the nine months of the PTI government had already jumped to Rs28,000bn and soon it would touch Rs30,000bn mark. He said if the PTI government was allowed to complete five-year term, the foreign debt might double that would be double than the total amount of loans obtained over the past 70 years.
Mr Abbasi said the country’s GDP had come down from 5.8pc to 3.9pc within less than a year.
Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former premier Nawaz Sharif, said ‘inept’ PM Imran Khan would say that corruption was the reason for increase in petroleum prices. She asked if Mr Khan would disclose to the people why the petroleum prices were being raised by his government every now and then. “This incompetent person who is imposed on the people has made their lives miserable,” she said.
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, who is currently in London for medical treatment, termed the PoL price hike as “economic terrorism”. He said: “Imran Niazi’s Naya Pakistan has taken this country on the cusp of economic crisis.”
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman in a statement said the increase in the price of petrol would further increase the cost of food and transport for the people.
“The government has allowed the IMF to steer the economy in whichever direction it deems fit. It is taxing everything exponentially to raise revenue but failing as the revenue shortfall has widened to Rs440 billion,” she said.
She regretted that the government had given nothing to this nation other than price hike and unemployment over the past nine months. She pointed out that the oil prices had been jacked up by Rs20 per litre in less than a year whereas the oil prices in international market had dropped by three per cent.
Zulqarnain Tahir from Lahore also contributed to the report
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2019