Opposition slams, govt defends policies in National Assembly

Published October 23, 2021
PML-N's Khawaja Mohammad Asif (L) and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan (R) speak during a session of the National Assembly on Friday. — Photo via NA of Pakistan Twitter
PML-N's Khawaja Mohammad Asif (L) and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan (R) speak during a session of the National Assembly on Friday. — Photo via NA of Pakistan Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The opposition and treasury benches in the National Assembly were locked in a debate on Friday, with the opposition assailing the government for following “flawed economic policies” and the latter defending them.

Devaluation of Pakistani rupee against US dollar remained a key point during the debate, which continued during the question hour and beyond.

Khawaja Mohammad Asif, the PML-N parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, slammed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor for his recent remarks that devaluation of rupee had benefited six to seven million overseas Pakistanis.

Pointing out that the SBP governor did not mention what would happen to 220 million people living in the country, Mr Asif said it was purely a political statement that should not have been made by an official who is in charge of the monetary policy.

Asif decries SBP governor’s remarks over rupee depreciation

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was on record to have said that devaluation of rupee against dollar added billions to the national debt. The former defence minister noted that the volume of external debt had unbelievably swelled due to imprudent fiscal policies.

He said the SBP governor was called at the Public Accounts Committee where he refused to disclose the names of beneficiaries of $3 billion that “landed in Pakistan and then was sent to another destination”.

The PML-N MNA said some individuals were allowed to earn huge profit at an interest rate of over 13 per cent before the money went abroad again.

“‘It’s a secret’, was the response of the SBP governor when asked as to who owned this money,” Mr Asif said.

“These people are liquidators sent by the International Monetary Fund. Their task is to ruin the economy as was done in Egypt,” he said. “These people who want Pakistan to become bankrupt through their monetary policy are accountable to none and will leave the country after accomplishing their task.”

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan rose in his seat to respond, but could not, as Syed Naveed Qamar of PPP pointed out quorum. After a count was done and the house was not found in order, the chair prorogued the session.

Earlier, during question hour, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said during the initial four years of the PML-N’s last stint in power, the then finance minister Ishaq Dar adopted the policy of artificially controlling rupee-dollar parity through borrowings from the SBP.

He said the policy was reversed when Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was prime minister and Miftah Ismael finance minister. “We have only refined the policy of market-based flexible currency exchange rate.”

Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub said the PML-N government obtained $23.6 billion loan for deficit financing. Pakistan used to spend $5bn dollars on account of debt repayments every year before that, which jumped to over $9bn.

He said the PML-N government had left foreign exchange reserves sufficient for only two weeks. He accused the PML-N of destroying the economy.

Meanwhile, the house was told the value of rupee had depreciated against dollar during the current fiscal year from Rs157.54 as of end of June to Rs172.78 as of October 18, reflecting a depreciation of 8.8 per cent.

The house was informed that since May 2019, Pakistan had adopted a market-based flexible exchange rate system under which the exchange rate was determined by market demand and supply conditions and trend in the exchange rate was generally a reflection of the external balance of payment position of the country.

Qaisar Ahmed Shaikh, a PML-N lawmaker, alleged that by increasing rate of dollar from Rs120 to Rs175, the government had played havoc with the national economy.

He said it was for the first time that the country’s imports were three times higher than its exports, but the government was claiming increase in exports.

Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce Aliya Hamza Malik, rejecting the opposition’s criticism, said the economy was moving in the right direction.

She said imports had increased due to import of spare parts for the country’s auto and IT industries as well as equipment for Covid-19 vaccination.

She said exports had crossed the figure of $25bn last year due to prudent polices of the government.

She said gas prices had been rationalised for export-oriented sectors.

A 50pc relief in electricity tariff for small and medium enterprises was granted till June this year.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021

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