ISLAMABAD, March 18: State Bank governor Dr Ishrat Hussain has ruled out the idea of single currency in South Asia and said it required a lot of spade work. While delivering a lecture on "Current Economic Developments" at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, he told a questioner that so far the idea had been sounded by only one member of Saarc.

It had taken the European Union nearly 40 years to establish a single market, while Asean was still far from the stage of single currency, he said. The SBP chief talked little about the subject itself and touched upon a variety of topics, including successes of China and Korea. He also emphasized the "lessons" which could be learned from the progress made by other countries.

On the other hand, he accused the Pakistani nation of engaging in divisiveness and subtractions instead of making any positive contributions to country's development.

He advised the students not to be taken in by the "garbage thrown by the newspapers" and other opinionated persons airing various theories about the reasons for Pakistan lagging behind other nations.

However, the SBP chief acknowledged that Pakistan was a poor country with per capita income of only $500 to $600. Its a country which had not advanced much in tackling poverty, he added.

He said Chinese people saved 40 per cent of their current incomes which they put back into the economy, while Pakistanis spent more than what they earned. Dr Hussain blamed the people of Pakistan for sluggish GDP growth rate and, through that, for endemic poverty because they did not save enough to contribute to the economy.

He spoke eloquently about the successes of the banking sector. The State Bank of Pakistan and commercial banks, he said, were now topped by competent and well-paid professionals of high calibre and made their operations profitable after laying off their surplus employees.

In reply to a question, Dr Hussain justified the fact that Pakistan's economic policies were dictated by the IMF. This was because these were in line with the government objectives, he argued.

As regards the World Bank, he said as a former executive of that body, he could say that the mistakes made by it far exceeded those of anybody else. He also said the ratio of non-performing loans had been reduced from 25 per cent to 5 per cent during the period 1997- 2004 which, in fact, was attributable to the fact that there were few applicants for credit to engage in productive activities.

The SBP chief regretted that education had low priority in Pakistan. Underlining the importance of educating women, he was satisfied to note that women outnumbered men in Dow Medical College, Karachi.

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