PTI’s white paper on economy misleading, devoid of context: Ishaq Dar

Published January 4, 2023
<p>Finance Minister Ishaq Dar addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. — APP</p>

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. — APP

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday termed the PTI’s white paper on the state of the economy as “selective, misrepresented and devoid of economic context”.

The document, released a day earlier, had analysed the economic performance of the PML-N, PTI, and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) governments from 2013 till now.

The document painted a bleak picture of affairs and warned that hyperinflation, coupled with unemployment, could push the country towards “complete anarchy”.

Responding to the claims presented in the document while addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Dar said: “The PTI presentation was selective, misrepresented and economic indicators were misleading.”

He was flanked by Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, Economic Affairs Minister Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and State Minister for Finance and Revenue Ayesha Ghaus Pasha.

The finance minister said the comparisons made in the white paper were “incorrect and devoid of economic context”.

He said the economic situation since April 2022 was “strongly influenced by the legacy” that the incumbent government inherited from the previous regime.

He further said that the document released by the PTI lacked context, adding that the party had also ignored the international economic situation, the commodities super-cycle, the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war and catastrophic floods in the country.

“These realities should have been kept in mind for making a fair analysis,” he said.

The finance minister said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had predicted that one-third of the globe would be in serious economic trouble in 2023 and Pakistan was “no exception”.

He said the Fund had projected GDP growth at 2.7 per cent.

The finance minister categorically rejected the PTI’s claim of an increase in prices by 100 to 200pc as being “factually incorrect”.

He said that since the incumbent government took over, the prices of wheat increased by 33pc, cooking oil by 21pc, masoor pulse by 19.5pc, maash pulse by 35pc, tomatoes by 13.7pc, petrol by 47pc, electricity by 0.5pc and vegetable ghee by 14.9pc.

Dar said the PTI’s claim of creating 5.5 million jobs during its government was also “incorrect”. “Official data showed that some 3.2m jobs were created from 2019 to 2022.”

He said the PML-N’s previous government collected Rs2,255 billion in revenue in its first year and Rs3,844bn in its last year (FY 2018).

“The PTI government, on the other hand, started its first year with negative growth in revenue collection by collecting Rs3,829bn while the revenue collection in its fourth year remained Rs6,148bn,” the finance minister added.

Dar said that during the first six months of the financial year 2022-23, revenue collection increased by 17.5pc to Rs3,429bn compared to the same period of the previous year.

He also expressed the government’s resolve to achieve the current year’s target of Rs7,440bn.

IMF programme

To a question about the stalled IMF programme, Dar said the 9th and 10th reviews with the IMF would have to be combined. He also expressed confidence that the coalition government would complete the programme with the IMF as the last PML-N government had done.

To another question, the minister said it was that the federal government was working on keeping the prices of essential commodities in check.

Regarding the rupee’s depreciation, Dar said all the major currencies in the world performed negatively against the US dollar. He said illicit means of currency transfers and smuggling of foreign reserves were the “basic reasons behind the weakening of the currency”.

“Law enforcing agencies are working on dismantling the network of smugglers.”

Comparisons between PML-N and PTI tenures

Comparing the performance of the prior PML-N and PTI government, Dar said the PML-N’s last government left with revenue collection at 9.8pc of GDP and the PTI government at “only 9.2pc of GDP in its last year”.

He said during the previous PML-N government’s last year (2018), the trade deficit stood at Rs30.9bn while the PTI government left it at Rs39bn.

“I acknowledge the figures cited by the PTI [in the white paper], but its government left the current account deficit at Rs17.3bn”, he said, adding that the PML-N government under the leadership of party supremo Nawaz Sharif also had to fulfil the country’s security requirements, fought wars against terrorists, and cope with loadshedding.

The finance minister said in the first five months of the current fiscal year, the current account deficit stood at $3.1bn against $7.2bn in the same period of the previous year, and would be $7bn at the fiscal year’s end.

As regards exports, he said, “The last PML-N government started its term with annual exports of $25.1bn and ended at $24.8bn in 2018. On the contrary, the exports during the first two years of the PTI government dipped and then rose to $32bn in its fourth year, and the main reason for enhanced exports was turf financing of Rs400bn by the government at 1pc markup rate.

“If we also give such financing of Rs1,000bn to the industrialists today, the export situation will improve considerably,” he added.

The minister said the GDP growth rate in the first year of the PML-N government was 4.05pc, which rose to 6.1pc in the last with an average growth of 4.7pc while the PTI regime’s four-year average growth was 3.5pc.

“In dollar terms, we added $112bn to the GDP size, and the PTI could add only $61bn in its four-year term.”

He said the PML-N government had enhanced the per capita income from $1,389 to $1,768, showing an increase of 27.3pc while the PTI government could manage a raise of “only $30 to $1,798”.

Regarding the stock market, he said the market index rose from 19,916 to 44,930 points from 2013 to 2018, which went down during the caretaker setup and then the PTI government could manage to add “only 2,000 points to 44,545 points during its four-year tenure”.

PTI accuses Dar of manipulating figures

PTI Senator and former finance minister Shaukat Tarin said he had read the government’s rebuttal to the white paper and was “amazed how blatantly they have distorted and misstated facts”.

“We will share with the people of Pakistan these distortions soon,” he tweeted.

PTI leader Hammad Azhar also alleged that the finance minister was manipulating economic figures. He said the country was in need of “serious economic decision-making”.



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