KARACHI: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that although Pakistan expected to receive $2 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “our real goal is [achieving] self-reliance… [which is] easier said than done.”

Addressing the ‘Turnaround Pakistan’ conference organised by the Ministry of Planning and Development in Islamabad, the premier stressed the need for all quarters to work together for the country’s progress as well as the need for self-reliance. Self-reliance guarantees political and economic independence, he said.

PM Shehbaz cited the example of Reko Diq, saying Pakistan had wasted billions but had yet to earn anything from the project. He said that Pakistan was drowning under debts, saying the country’s liabilities far outweighed its assets.

He regretted that the 1,200-megawatt Haveli Bahadur Shah Power Plant, set up by the former PML-N government, had still not been completed.

He went on to say that a few weeks ago, there was a danger of the country running out of edible oil. He said he wrote to Indonesian President Joko Widodo in this regard and also spoke to him on the phone.

“The Indonesian president said he would issue instructions,” he said, adding that he directed a minister to go to the country at his own expense, where he stayed until the vessels departed for Pakistan.

“This is one example. When you want to work, countless doors open up.”

The PM went on to say that Pakistan was facing countless issues as he called for rising above personal interests and differences.

“New governments blame previous governments. We need to decide on changing the country’s fate and for that we need to work day and night. Unless this is done, we will keep moving in circles,” he said.

In his speech, the finance minister said that the government will be bringing builders and furniture dealers into the tax net.

“We have imposed taxes on the prime minister’s sons. I am also paying more tax. We can only ask the nation to sacrifice if we do the same,” he pointed out.

He reasoned that the government had imposed direct taxes as opposed to non-direct as the former were non-inflationary. “This year, we will take 33pc more tax than last year which is an achievement.”

The minister also cautioned that although Pakistan was no longer in danger of defaulting, it was still important for the government and the people to tread carefully and “stay disciplined”.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022

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