Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Business Desk

To address financial needs, PM Shehbaz seeks proposals from economic experts on emergency basis

Imran Khan's government has left highest-ever deficit in Pakistan's history, Miftah Ismail says

Business Desk
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of his economic team at the PMs Office in Islamabad, on April 12, 2022. — Twitter/@PMO_PK
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of his economic team at the PM's Office in Islamabad, on April 12, 2022. — Twitter/@PMO_PK

  • PM Shehbaz Sharif directs formation of National Economic Council.
  • PM to meet with economic experts in few days to discuss suggestions.
  • Imran's govt left highest-ever deficit in Pakistan's history, Ismail says.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday in a meeting with economic experts issued directives for formulating financial proposals on an emergency basis to address the current economic situation in the country.

The PM Office, in a statement, said the directives came during the newly elected prime minister's meeting with his economic team as he seeks to steer the country out of the financial crisis.

The proposals will be devised in line with the consultation with stakeholders in areas including agriculture, trade, investment, and banking, the statement said.

A meeting will be held in the next few days to discuss the suggestions of the economic experts.

The prime minister also decided to form the National Economic Council (NEC) to be comprised of independent financial experts.

In view of the challenging economic situation, he directed the setting of medium and long-term fiscal policies and also stressed the presentation of comprehensive policy options to overcome inflation.

PM Shehbaz emphasised a reduction in prices of daily-use commodities and essential items, particularly during the month of Ramazan. He also stressed the need for maintaining a balance between the national and public interests.

During the meeting, the secretary of finance gave a briefing to the prime minister on the economic situation, revenues, budget deficit, and loans besides the overall national balance sheet.

'Deficit stands at Rs5,600 billion, highest in history'

In a press conference after the meeting, ex-finance minister and PML-N leader Miftah Ismail said that Pakistan's deficit stood at Rs5,600 billion as he slammed the ousted PTI-led government for pushing the country toward economic turmoil.

"This is the highest deficit in Pakistan's history by far. Earlier, the PTI government had predicted a deficit of Rs3,990 billion, later a reporter didn't agree and claimed it would stand at Rs4,300 billion, but I had said that it would move up to Rs4,600 billion, unfortunately, I was wrong," Ismail told journalists.

Ex-finance minister and PML-N leader Miftah Ismail (right) address a press conference alongside other party leaders in Islamabad, on April 12, 2022. — YouTube/PTVNews
Ex-finance minister and PML-N leader Miftah Ismail (right) address a press conference alongside other party leaders in Islamabad, on April 12, 2022. — YouTube/PTVNews

Ismail said the state in which Imran Khan's government had left the economy was an injustice to the people of Pakistan as the inflation was increasing with every passing day due to their policies.

The member of the newly elected premier's economic committee lashed out at the PTI-led government for announcing the subsidies — on fuel, electricity, and others — which, he claimed, were not maintainable.

"...I have to say this with a heavy heart that the statements the ministers made were erroneous as they cannot finance [the subsidy package] on their own, the deficit is increasing by Rs373 billion," Ismail said.

He further said Imran Khan — when he saw his government was about to be ousted — announced relief measures, which put the country's economy and future at stake.

Ismail also berated the ex-prime minister for granting subsidies to businesses and said "there was no need" at all to provide them with it.

Regarding Governor State Bank of Pakistan Reza Baqir, Ismail said his term was scheduled to end in May, while the prime minister would have a final say about his future in the coalition government.

On the International Monetary Fund and other international economic institutions' agreements with the previous government, Ismail said the incumbent government would uphold them.

The ex-finance minister did not make a clear statement about petrol prices as he said that the government would make a decision once the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority sends its summary.

PM Shehbaz announces relief measures

In his first speech in the National Assembly as the prime minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Monday raised the minimum wage of government employees to Rs25,000 — applicable from April 1.

He further announced that 10% salaries will be increased for all people earning less than Rs 100,0000 per month, with effect from April 1. PM Shehbaz also announced a 10% increase in civil and military pensions of retired employees.

Among other relief measures, PM Shehbaz said that cheap wheat will be introduced at utility stores, laptops will be provided to the youth, and Benazir Card will be introduced.

Regarding the economy of Pakistan, Shahbaz said if Pakistan were to progress, then it needs to be self-sufficient on the financial front.

"...we will need to protect and respect the nation as neither was anyone a traitor nor are they traitors now," the prime minister said, noting if Pakistan's economy were to move forward, then, the government will have to use "dialogue" and not move towards a deadlock.