Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar on Sunday urged government and opposition lawmakers to sign a charter of economy in order to prevent Pakistan's return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailout packages in the future.
The idea of a 'charter of economy', initially proposed by PML-N leader and former finance minister Ishaq Dar in 2017 to "draw up a common economic vision for 2018-2023", was revived by Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif in his opening speech during debate on the Budget 2019-20, and supported by PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari in his own speech.
The intent behind the proposed charter is to devise a long-term economic policy with consensus to bring the country out of the debt trap and make it self-reliant. The charter would ensure that no party does politicking in the name of economic issues and that no new government will scrap all the steps of the previous government so that consistency is maintained.
Prime Minister Imran Khan is also receptive to the idea, and has agreed to the formation of a committee on the charter to consider current economic conditions and propose solutions to problems. But Maryam Nawaz, a PML-N vice president, took an opposing stance on the charter yesterday, terming it a joke.
The NA continued its sitting to debate the finance bill into the weekend to compensate for a week that was wasted due to noisy protests in the Lower House by both, the opposition and treasury benches.
During his address in parliament today, Bakhtiar sought joint action from parliamentarians to save the economy, reminding lawmakers that when the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government came into power, it had inherited massive fiscal and current account deficits, the latter of which it had brought down to $12 billion from $20bn.
Bakhtiar regretted that the need to win "the next political race" had always hampered the ruling party's commitment towards economic stabilisation.
"In the initial three years, every government made efforts to stabilise the economy but later, their focus remained only on winning the next election."
"The time has come that the nation decides that the 18th International Monetary Fund (IMF) package will be last one," he asserted.
He pointed out that the PML-N had a total fiscal space of $66bn during its tenure and could have put the country's economy back on track, but "the Dar economy failed, and a precious five years were wasted".
"Ishaq Dar can be truly called an 'economic hitman' due to his policies," he stated, adding that the parliament, being the most important policy making institution, should draft a charter of economy.
Giving India's example, he said that the country had faced the biggest balance of payment crisis in 1992 but bounced back as it had laid emphasis on the right areas for development. "They developed human resources, technology, and industry. We kept on building motorways," he explained.
The minister observed that the last time India approached the IMF for a bailout was 27 years ago, in 1992.
PML-N leader and former minister for planning and development Ahsan Iqbal on a point of personal explanation following Bakhtiar's speech, described it as a lecture on 'Khusronomics'.
"Today the minister is reciting verses in praise of Imran Khan; previously he used to do it for Nawaz Sharif," Iqbal said.
Prior to the planning minister's address, Iqbal had held the floor and criticised the budget saying that "the government seeks the passing of the budget with the sole purpose of getting the $6bn dollar IMF package, come what may".
"Even at the cost of increasing the population of those living below the poverty line. Even at the cost of increasing unemployment," he claimed.
"This government is a year old and will have to be answerable for its performance. It should not keep on pointing fingers at past governments," Iqbal asserted.
The former minister claimed that If the government had failed to achieve its revenue target and there is a shortfall of Rs550bn, and if current expenditures have increased, then only the PTI government is responsible, not the PML-N.