LAHORE, Jan 18: President Gen Pervez Musharraf has said that the country no more requires IMF loans at the moment and expressed the hope that it would be out of the debt crisis during the next two or three years.

He was talking to members of the Punjab cabinet here at the Governor’s House on Saturday. Governor Khalid Maqbool and Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi also spoke on the occasion.

According to a handout, the president mentioned the three- year performance of his government and said at present the country’s economic condition was at a stage from where “we can take off for a strong economic journey.”

However, he said, the government would have to work with more vigour, honesty and determination for trickling down the benefits of the economic growth to the common man.

The president asked the cabinet ministers to support the local government system. He asked them to see everything in the context of Pakistan and assess which project or system could benefit the people.

He said a middle way could be adopted to remove confusion, if any, regarding the powers of the local governments and the assembly members after the induction of the political government. He also stressed the need for taking more steps for devolving powers down to the union council level.

The president said Punjab was the heart of Pakistan and performance of its cabinet would leave a deep impact on the country’s future. “Your failure would be the failure of the country,” he said.

He said the country suffered a lot during the past 50 years and now it could not afford to have more failures. He asked the ministers to promote merit in their departments and encourage only able and honest people. The institutions would continue to fail if this was not done, he said.

The president said the Pakistani people had all the potential to progress and become a powerful nation. But it required sincerity of purpose, honesty and respect of merit to achieve this goal.

“This is regrettable that despite having the potential, the country and the nation continued to face failures,” he said.

He urged the ministers to forget about the VIP culture and serve the people of their constituencies without any discrimination.

“Those who voted against you are also the citizens of this country and therefore consider all localities while making development projects,” he said.

The president said the entire nation was looking towards the elected representatives, pinning great hopes on them. This was so because the past politicians did not come up to the people’s expectations.

He mentioned the misuse of funds in the past and said from 1988 to 1999 different governments spent Rs1200 billion on development projects but no development was visible anywhere in the country.

“Had this money been spent judiciously the country’s economic and social condition would have been much better now,” he said.

In contrast, the president said his government initiated various mega projects which would cost only Rs300 billion. The initial estimated cost of the Right Bank Outfall Drain was Rs126 billion which was reduced to Rs75 billion by a national institution. Nevertheless, army experts later assessed the project and reported that it could be completed with meagre Rs14 billion.

He assured his full support to the chief minister and his cabinet and said “we would all work as a team for the betterment of the country.”

He expressed the hope that various young ministers in the cabinet would prove as an asset for the chief minister, saying they should, however, take benefit of the experience of senior ministers.

The governor said all powers had been transferred to the elected government. It was now the duty of the new government to see as to how it could play its role for the development of the province.

The chief minister said the address of the president would serve as guidance to this cabinet. He said his government would try to change the political culture while operating within the existing system. And for this purpose, he would strengthen the house committees of the assembly members so that all departments could be made accountable.

Earlier, the president met members of the previous Punjab cabinet also at the Governor’s House and congratulated them for running their departments efficiently and providing a solid ground for the new elected government.

He said this was the performance of his federal and provincial governments which took the country to the take-off position and now it was the job of the new setup to take the country forward from this point.

Governor Khalid Maqbool presented an overview of the previous cabinet’s three-year performance.

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