Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (upper left), former finance minister Miftah Ismail (upper right), former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair (bottom left), and former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal (bottom right) addressing the Opposition’s pre-budget seminar, on June 3, 2021. — YouTube

With the budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 right around the corner, the PML-N on Thursday slammed the incumbent government for the economic policies   adopted in the last three years.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, addressing the Opposition’s pre-budget seminar,  said Prime Minister Imran Khan “has no knowledge of the basics of economics” and makes decisions in line with advice from “courtiers”.

Abbasi claimed during the incumbent government’s tenure, as many as five million people have become unemployed.

The former premier further claimed the PTI-led government has pushed 20 million people into poverty and has heavily burdened people by increasing the price of electricity by more than 62%.

He said the PML-N had “taken out 20 million people out of poverty” when it was in power.

Financial losses due to line losses and electricity theft have gone up to 4.5%, he claimed, adding Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited were “bankrupt” today.

Abbasi said the country’s biggest issue was circular debt. “Pakistan’s economy has shrunk by $19 billion in the last three years.”

The former premier claimed that even with the impact of coronavirus on the economy retroactively applied to the PML-N government’s economic indicators, the common man’s income would have risen by 25%.

“People have received the gift of inflation through a stolen election,” he said, implying that the general elections of 2018 were rigged.

‘Increase in loans by Rs45,000 billion’

Former finance minister Miftah Ismail, speaking during the seminar, said the current regime was “toying with the economy” and claimed it had increased the loans of the government and state institutions by Rs45,000 billion.

The PML-N leader said PM Imran Khan even takes food for “langar” as part of its feeding the poor initiative from Saylani, an NGO.

The former finance minister claimed the fiscal deficit during Imran Khan’s tenure in 2019 stood at Rs3,829 billion, while it moved up to Rs3,892 billion in 2020.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin also admitted that an increase in interest rate increases debt, Ismail said.

He claimed the government was able to increase exports by a mere 1% after devaluing the currency.

‘We expected a 6% GDP with such massive loans’

“We were expecting a 6% increase in Pakistan’s GDP as the government had taken loans worth Rs15,000 billion,” the former finance minister said.

The government, despite procuring such massive loans, is still predicting a GDP growth of 4%, he said, adding that “loans of nearly Rs25,000 billion had now moved up to Rs38,600 billion”.

During PML-N’s tenure, the fiscal deficit stood at Rs1,500 billion, and now it is at Rs3,500 billion, Ismail said. “Federal Bureau of Revenue’s collection has also fallen to Rs3,897 billion.”

The former finance minister said if FBR has crossed the Rs4,500 billion mark it is no great achievement for PTI and “this was the target for 2019”.

“The government’s austerity claims are lies […] its spending has moved up from 16% to 20%,” the former finance minister said.

Ismail claimed that during PML-N’s tenure, exports stood at $24.76 million, while they have just reached $25.51 million during the PTI rule.

Miftah admitted as much that the country’s reserves are increasing, and that is a good sign, but as he concluded his speech, he remarked that “no ruler has indebted this country as much as Imran Khan.”

‘Poster boy sacked in eight months’

Also addressing the seminar, former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair said four finance people have held the finance ministry’s portfolio during this government’s tenure.

“Where are those 200 people who claimed they could fix the economy?” he asked.

Slamming the government, he said PM Imran Khan had sacked PTI’s “poster boy” Asad Umar as the finance minister within a span of eight months.

Zubair said he had advised Umar that the problem in their government was the captain — Imran Khan.

“When they were unable to find a suitable candidate for the post of finance minister, they reached out to Hafeez Shaikh,” he said.

Taking another jibe at the government, he said they might now contact former deputy speaker for the Senate, Saleem Mandviwala, for the post of finance minister.

“The revenue growth target was set at Rs5.6 trillion, but the government could only reach 3.9 trillion,” Zubair said, adding the government was unaware of what had led to an additional expenditure of Rs800 billion.

Zubair said PTI, before coming into power, had vowed to end corruption and unemployment in 90 days, however, it is still intact after 3 years — and on the rise.

“In PTI’s three years, two finance ministers were from PPP … the same PPP whose economic policies Imran Khan would criticise,” Zubair said.

In the end, he said the team’s players were changed repeatedly, but now, there was a need to change the captain.

‘PTI unable to inaugurate projects PML-N approved’

Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal said PML-N had approved development projects for Chilas and, Mirpur, and Muzaffarabad in 2016, “but even after five years, PTI is unable to inaugurate them”.

“Imran Khan has not been able to start works on projects like Railway ML1 and Keti Bandar,” he said, adding: “During PML-N’s tenure, meetings of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) would occur every six months.”

“However, it has met only two times since PTI came into power,” he added.



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