NA panel seeks experts’ advice to tame inflation

Updated September 17, 2019

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The IMF mission is to hold a meeting with the Standing Committee on Finance on Tuesday. — APP/File
The IMF mission is to hold a meeting with the Standing Committee on Finance on Tuesday. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Inviting four eminent private sector economists and business leaders for advice on controlling inflation, a parliamentary panel of three major political parties on Monday decided to ask the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to advance its programme in Pakistan with a human face.

This was the crux of first meeting of a sub-committee constituted by former finance minister Asad Umar led-National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue to ‘recommend the measures for controlling inflation.

The sub-committee led by Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha of PML-N comprises PPP’s Hina Rabbani Khar and PTI’s Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.

The sub-committee invited for policy advice and input four private experts including former finance minister Dr Hafeez Pasha, former principal economic adviser of the finance ministry Sakib Sherani, Chartered Accountant Ashfaq Tola and President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Almas Haider. The meeting noted that candid opinion of the four experts about factors responsible for high inflation would be greatly helpful along with their advice to scale it down to single digits.

The sub-committee will also invite chairman of the finance committee Asad Umar for his take on the inflationary regime and what implementable actions could be suggested to the government to reduce inflation. This will be followed by an invitation to the federal secretary finance and the governor State Bank of Pakistan and other stakeholders to move forward.

The convener of the committee Dr Aisha Pasha said the IMF delegation that arrived on Monday for a week-long discussions with the authorities would be asked that it should give its current programme a human face so that stabilisation efforts do not hurt the public at large, particularly the vulnerable. The IMF mission is to hold a meeting with the Standing Committee on Finance on Tuesday.

The members of the sub-committee were unanimous that the agreement with the IMF for $6bn Extended Fund Facility was not negotiated by the government’s economic team in the best interest of the people and country.

Dr Pasha said she don’t want to make a political statement or an allegation but fact remained that those involved in the finalisation of the programme with IMF were not clear about the programme conditionalities.

PTI’s Dr Ramesh Kumar was also critical of the government’s economic performance and said 40pc businesses had been closed down mainly because of the fact that nobody could afford to set up a business at an interest rate of 16pc.

Dr Pasha said the front-loaded IMF programme had pushed the country’s economy into a recession and increased the government’s suffering after inflation moved into the double-digit and people were burdened with the price hike.

She said the IMF team will have an interaction with the finance committee where they would be conveyed the negative implications of the ongoing fund programme including the fact that government’s stabilisation efforts under the programme were hurting the people and economy at present.

“We will present our perspective to the IMF about their programme,” she said, adding the fund would be asked to open its eyes to the ground realities of Pakistan.

PPP’s Hina Rabbani Khar said the double-digit inflation in Pakistan was because of indigenous factors like monetary policy, exchange rates and taxes and had nothing to do with external factors.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019