LAHORE: A white paper issued by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) comparing the economic performance of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and PTI governments painted a bleak picture of affairs and warned that hyperinflation, coupled with unemployment, could push the country towards “complete anarchy”.
Speaking at a ceremony held at Chief Minister’s Secretariat at The Mall via video link, PTI Chairman Imran Khan reiterated that the only solution to avert an economic collapse was to hold free and fair elections. He added that political stability would ensure economic stability.
The PTI chairman, however, regretted that Pakistan had been caught in a catch-22 situation because the “status quo” was avoiding general elections. He claimed the government would choose to face all kinds of perils to secure an IMF programme notwithstanding the tough conditions which would result in further inflation.
Mr Khan expressed pleasant surprise that one of the recommendations of the National Security Committee urged the government to immediately stop the flight of dollars abroad even though a government of “money launderers is at the helm”.
“After installing a government of money-launderers, they are teaching us to stop the flight of dollars abroad,” he jibed. Imran Khan also used the opportunity to grill former army chief retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He regretted that Mr Bajwa was not interested in upholding the rule of law. Commenting that Gen Bajwa had become a “jack of all trades”, he lamented that the former army chief gave the Sharifs and Zardaris ‘NRO-II’.
Earlier, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin explained the contents of the white paper to the students, who were invited from the economics and statistics departments of Government College University, Lahore. The document analysed the ‘economic performance’ of the PML-N, PTI, and PDM governments from 2013 till to-date.
Mr Tarin, who is also the head of PTI’s economic team, said the current account deficit during PML-N tenure in 2018 was $19.2 billion. In 2018, he said, the State Bank’s reserves were $9.4bn. During the PTI rule, he claimed the current account deficit was reduced by $2bn every month.
From 2013 to 2018, Mr Tarin said the exports decreased by $10bn, while imports increased to $23 billion. He said the agriculture and industrial sectors were ignored during this period. He added the debt-to-GDP ratio increased to 64 per cent in 2018. The circular debt increased by Rs1.6 trillion during the 2013 to 2018 period.
He said the PTI government-financed loans worth $32bn after assuming power. The PTI government posted 6pc GDP growth despite the pandemic, he said, adding that 5.5 million new jobs were generated during the tenure of the PTI government. “By March last year, the State Bank’s reserves had reached $11.4bn,” he claimed.
In a reference to energy subsidies which were criticised by economists and the IMF, Mr Tarin said the PTI government had kept the prices of petroleum products low despite an increase in the international market as well as offered relief packages to the people.
On the other hand, he said, the PDM government’s eight months in power took the inflation rate to new heights as the prices of flour, ghee, petroleum products, and household items increased by 100 to 200pc.
The State Bank’s reserves sank to $6.1bn; the default risk rose from five per cent to 90 per cent and some 1.5 million textile employees became unemployed, the PTI leader claimed.
During the last eight months, Mr Tarin said the dollar hit a record high in the open and interbank markets from Rs179 in March to Rs224 in November 2022. He said Pakistan’s credit rating had also plunged.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb rejected the white paper issued by the PTI and said that those who pushed the country to “the brink of default should be ashamed of themselves for their own misadventures,” APP reported.
Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2023