LAHORE: The threat of default due to the PTI government’s agreements, according to Federal Railways and Aviation Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique, compelled the incumbent government to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“No government ever goes to the IMF happily. But when the entire world closes its doors, asking to come after opening the IMF lock, there is no choice but to do something to save the country and make it sustainable,” the minister said at a press conference on Tuesday.
He accused the predecessor government of leaving the present mess.
The minister hinted at raising passenger fares and freight train tariffs. A team has begun calculating the financial impact of the increase in petroleum products on the railway.
Accuses PTI of present mess
He said that, unlike road transporters, PR will only raise fares in response to the actual impact of new diesel prices. He did not comment on the government’s weaker influence on road fares.
He stated that the PR has decided to lease all 2,500 of its shops as well as agricultural and other properties across the country. He said that no one bothered to read out the Supreme Court’s decision in detail, which did not prevent the railways’ administration from renting out shops.
“The verdict never stopped us,” he explained.
“After we read the verdict carefully, we reached a consensus that the decision doesn’t stop us from doing so. So, we will soon rent out our entire 2,500 shops, and other lands for five years. Efforts are also underway to go for a revenue-sharing model with the companies using our land for laying optical fibre. Hopefully, this all will help us earn revenue ranging between Rs2.5bn to Rs3bn a year.”
When asked about the initiation of any inquiry or action against those delaying the lease of railway shops, Mr Rafique said it was easier to talk about penalising civil officers and leaving those “who destroyed this country. It is just because of the fear (Parr Jaltay Hain).”
He said the addition of the green line express train with new and modern Chinese coaches would also help the PR in financial terms. About the PR’s branding project, he said a team of professionals will unveil phase one of the project in the next 45 days. It would be another relief to the railways in terms of revenue.
“Compare the PML-N government of 2013 to 2017 with the PTI government’s four years —2018 to 2022. The last 10 months of the PML-N government under Shahid Khaqan were full of conspiracies against us. But despite all this, we succeeded in saying goodbye to the IMF,” he maintained.
He defended beleaguered Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, saying he was facing destructive mines laid by the PTI government. Since it was the PTI government that opted for the IMF programme, the incumbent government’s ongoing period is just a time of firefighting.
“I admit that a massive price hike is intolerable. But we will overcome this if we make this country viable for the world through the IMF, get oil from Russia and change our habits, lifestyle, etc,” he added.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2023
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