ISLAMABAD: The PML-N and the PTI continued to shift the blame on Sunday over each other’s economic performance and the state of the country’s external debt.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb had a dig at former finance minister Shaukat Tarin in a tweet, sharing a video clip of a press conference from a day earlier in which he said the PTI government had raised the country’s debt by 76 per cent, and not 80pc, during its four-year tenure.

Referring to his remarks, Ms Aurangzeb said: “At last, Shaukat Tarin has admitted that Imran Khan took out loans worth Rs20,000 billion during his four-year tenure, which is 76pc of the loans taken out in Pakistan’s history. Imran sahib has to make many more such confessions.”

Separately, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said in a tweet that the total public debt under PTI went from Rs24,953bn to Rs44,366bn, an increase of 78pc. Besides, total debt plus liabilities went from Rs29,879bn to Rs 53,544bn, an increase of 79pc. “The PTI has added 79pc in 3.75 years of all debt plus liabilities added in the previous 71 years,” he said.

Marriyum says Tarin admitted previous govt’s loans amounted to 76pc of total debt; Fawad says most of it was to pay for previous loans

Reacting to Ms Aurangzeb’s remarks, PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry said their government took out loans of $52bn, of which $38bn was to pay back the loans taken out by the previous governments. “If you do not like the agreements made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), why does the begging government go to the IMF board?” he asked.

In a later tweet, he gave a breakdown of the country’s external debt, saying it was $45bn from 2008-09, $70.5bn from 2018-19 and $88bn until March this year.

The blame game came two days after the government presented the next fiscal year’s budget aimed at fiscal consolidation as it tries to convince the IMF to restart much-needed financial support.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif described the budget as “better” than the crippling economic situation the government inherited from the last PTI regime.

“Compared to the previous government, this budget shows significant improvement in many ways. More education opportunities have been provided to the youth in which Balochistan has been given special importance. Economically weaker sections have been given subsidies. The most important aspect is that the non-productive assets of the rich have been taxed,” the premier tweeted.

Flood warning

Meanwhile, Mr Sharif directed the ministries and departments concerned on Sunday to alert the provinces and district administrations in view of predictions about an above-average rainfall this monsoon during the last week of this month.

He directed officials to formulate a comprehensive strategy in collaboration with the provinces considering the forecast for heavy monsoon downpours, the Prime Minister Office said.

Mr Sharif said all precautionary measures should be taken in accordance with the forecast by the meteorological department, besides ensuring arrangements in low-lying areas and in those regions that could be affected during the rainy period.

He also asked for a timely supply of necessary equipment and other steps to protect crops and animals in agrarian areas.

The prime minister observed that residents in the affected areas should be forewarned and shifted to safer areas.

Other steps like proper drainage, dredging of nullahs and water channels and fumigation should also be taken, he added.

The Pakistan Meteorological Depar­tment has predicted that the country will receive “above-average rainfall” during the coming monsoon season.

Pre-monsoon rains are likely to start in the second week of this month.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2022

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