- ‘Mini-budget’ to lead to more inflation in country.
- “IMF policies simply to increase burden on people.”
- Stop giving “free electricity” to officials: lawmaker.
Minutes after the unveiling of the “mini-budget”, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday blasted the coalition government, claiming he “foresees no change” in the country’s economic condition even if the incumbent administration were to fulfil the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) demands.
During an address to the nation through a live link, the former prime minister said: “The mini-budget will lead to more inflation. There is no solution to Pakistan’s problems except the fresh elections.”
Seeking to fulfil prerequisites for unlocking the $1.1 billion IMF loan tranche, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar introduced the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2023 in both lower and upper houses of parliament.
Imran Khan also lamented that the state of the economy since his government’s ouster was appalling. “In the PTI era, the probability of default was 5%, now we are at par with Sri Lanka, and Pakistan has come significantly closer to defaulting.”
The deposed premier — who was ousted from the Prime Minister’s Office via a no-confidence move in April — also prophesied that adhering to Washington-based lender’s conditions will not help Pakistan’s ailing economy.
Recounting the increased prices of medicines and utilities — many of which witnessed a whopping rise in their prices recently — due to recent inflation, he lamented: “The mini-budget will simply increase the burden on the masses.”
Khan further said that the mini-budget would lead to a hike in the costs of gas and electricity, and the current inflation was the highest the country has seen in 50 years.
“Industrial production was increasing,” the PTI chief added, “today it has turned negative as industries in Faisalabad have closed.”
He also came down hard on PDM leaders including Fazlur Rehman and Bilawal Bhutto, criticising them for holding marches against inflation during his reign, only to be compliant with the current government’s hikes.
The ex-PM also asserted that during the PTI’s term in office, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had improved its performance.
“Prior to the PTI’s term, NAB used to recover Rs160 billion, in our era they recovered Rs480 billion. The current government, on the other hand, has gotten pardons in corruption cases worth 1,100 billion.”
Commenting on the current state of the country’s economy, he said that the rupee had fallen by 90% against the dollar, while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and per capita income had also decreased.
“Our reserves have fallen below $3 billion, putting the country’s security at risk,” Khan said, adding that the problem of the country’s economy could not be resolved merely by taking loans.
“The loans must also be returned.” He expressed his dismay at the hopes attached to the IMF bailout package and said that the arrival of the funding would simply lead to the piling up of yet more loans. “Even if IMF is accepted, Pakistan will remain stuck in the quagmire.”
Furthermore, Khan slammed the government for failing to give a “road map” on how to fix the country, and Finance Minister Ishaqe Dar for claiming he would bring the dollar down.
“Instead, they have spent the last 30 years looting people,” he said.
Khan further maintained that the only way out of the fiscal mess was fresh elections to bring in a public mandate and a government that the public trusted to make “difficult decisions.”
PTI dissident MNA Noor Alam Khan also expressed his reservations with the ‘mini-budget’ on the floor of the National Assembly, claiming that a hike in power tariff would be too much for the inflation-hit people.
“Medicines have become expensive,” he lamented. “Those that once cost Rs15 medicine will now cost Rs100.”
Taking issue with the matter of power hikes, he further urged the house to “stop giving free units of electricity”, adding that “1,300 units of free electricity are given to officials” of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) while poor people are forced to pay bills.
“WAPDA officers are being given huge salaries, cars, and numerous other benefits,” he said. “People are fed up with loadshedding while officers enjoy sitting in air-conditioned rooms.”
He also lambasted the coalition government for claiming it would pardon debts. “Why they did not forgive the debts of the flood victims?” he questioned, adding that it was a gross injustice that only slogans were reserved for the poor.
Furthermore, Noor called tax collectors “thieves” and declared: “If you tax people, you must give them some facilities as well.”
Demanding that institutions and their spending be reined in, the lawmaker said: “Smuggling is carried out through green channels. We must look into where the Afghanistan dollars going.”
For his part, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) MNA Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, while speaking on the floor of the house, criticised Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for travelling with protocol despite the PDM government’s cries for “simplicity.”
However, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf interrupted him and said: “You cannot make speeches here, only discuss the point of objection.”
When Chitrali defended his stance, the speaker repeated his assertion, leading the JI parliamentarian to say, “If I can’t make a speech, I will make a quorum point.”