Results of government's difficult decisions now showing, says Hafeez Sheikh

Updated October 12, 2019

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Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh addresses a press conference on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh addresses a press conference on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on Saturday reviewed the economic performance of the country during the first three months of the financial year 2020.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Sheikh said that two big deficits — foreign trade and fiscal — had been brought under control in the country.

He said that the trade deficit was brought down by 35 per cent while fiscal deficit was reduced by 36pc in the first quarter.

Read: Trade deficit shrinks by 35% in first quarter of FY20

"These are big steps and their positive results have come forward," Sheikh said.

Additionally, he noted that revenue had also increased by 16pc.

"One thing that we have really improved on in comparison to the previous year is non-tax revenue," the finance adviser said.

He revealed that Rs406 billion had been collected in non-tax revenue which was a 140pc increase over the previous year.

"We think that this is a big achievement. In our budget, we have a Rs1,200 billion target, but I want to share the good news with you that we will increase this by Rs400bn and are confident to take it to Rs1,600bn."

Read: In first year, govt sees record high fiscal deficit

On the exchange rate front, the adviser to the prime minister said that it had been brought to a stable level over the past three months. He also stated that foreign exchange reserves had now been stabilised.

He said that net portfolio investment in the country had increased after three years by $340 million.

"Foreign investors are showing confidence in Pakistan's economy right now," Sheikh said.

The adviser said that the results of the assistance provided by the government to the export sector were starting to become visible, particularly in the production of the export sector.

He added that another target of the government, the employment of Pakistanis overseas, was also going well.

Sheikh said that confidence in the stock market had increased. He noted that in the past three months — from August till now — the stock market had risen from the 28,000 points level to 34,000.

"The results of the difficult decisions taken by the government are slowly becoming apparent," he said, adding that international financial organisations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as foreign investors were now giving positive statements about Pakistan.

Meeting on development portfolio

Also on Saturday, Hafeez Shaikh chaired a meeting on reforms initiatives aimed at facilitating the government's development portfolio.

During the meeting, the government's economic team entrusted technical teams from the Economic Affairs Division, Planning Commission and the World Bank the task of chalking out a roadmap for simplifying the structure of the existing approval process of the development portfolio, a press release issued by the Finance Division said.

The teams have been directed to identify the specific areas of interventions and decisions and report back to the forum in a month's time.

The meeting was given a joint presentation by the Economic Affairs Division and the World Bank on different options to simplify the structure of existing approval processes of the development portfolio in order to shorten the project conception timeframe while also ensuring the presence of required funds, availability of project staff and timely procurements.

The initiative is intended to improve the preparedness level so that implementation on projects can start immediately upon approvals and signing of loan agreements.

"The government intends to digitize the whole planning process to speed up decision-making, leading towards timely implementation of projects," the statement said.

The high-level meeting was attended by Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar, Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain, and senior officials of the State Bank of Pakistan, the Controller General of Accounts, Finance Division, PD&R and EAD.