Ahsan Iqbal lambastes govt for ‘destroying economy’

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Ahsan Iqbal
PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal said on Thursday that the current government “believes 200 million people live in a village and can be fed through a couple of langars and tandoors”.

Iqbal was responding to Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh’s speech on the National Assembly floor yesterday, regarding the economy.

In his speech, Shaikh had said that those who had themselves approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should not be criticising the government for doing the same.

Iqbal, when given the NA floor today, said: “These people kept criticising us at every step of the way, now they are asking us not to criticise them for taking the same measures. If these measures were so bad, why are they carrying them out today?

“They have brought a bad name to national institutions. These institutions did not tell them to give such a budget, these institutions did not tell them to bring inflation. They need to stop hiding behind national institutions and saying that the institutions are faulty.

“They keep crying about current account deficit, they did not understand that the current account deficit had shot up because of the large amount of investment we had put into development projects, especially in the energy sector.

“What they failed to understand is that once these projects were completed, the deficit would also have come down and rationalised,” Iqbal said.

Minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, who took the floor after Iqbal, lamented that the government was facing troubles due to low revenue. He said that currently, there were five million bank accounts in the country but only 0.5m were within the tax net.

“We need to take a moment and think across party lines on how we will run this country when the volume of debt is at 78 per cent. We will have to pay interest and a principle amount on it.

“How will this country be run, even if we earn 5 trillion with a 12pc GDP tax ratio, then the federal government then has to give around 3 trillion to the provinces. So the federal government already starts at a deficit.”

He insisted that every government will face the same challenges as the incumbent one. The federal minister said the share of investment by the private sector in Pakistan’s economy was a mere 9pc because banks do not have the money to provide loans.

“We need to develop a mindset in this country that investors need to be respected,” he said.

“The tragedy of this country is that we keep changing policies,” he lamented. “First we [implemented a] nationalisation policy, then [later] we privatised all the banks.

“What are the banks doing? Right now, banks are providing money to the government, or to the main sectors like fertiliser, sugar, cement, on the most favourable interest rates. But the small sector, that of small-medium enterprises (SME), are merely getting 6pc of credit — in 2000, they would get 17-18pc of total credit.

“So we will have to think that when we develop a national development finance institution, the money will flow into SMEs and new sectors.”

He also directed the House’s attention towards the developing economies of neighbouring countries China and India, adding that by the time Pakistan turns 100, the country will have to feed 400 million people from existing resources.

He urged the parliament to unite and draw up a national economic charter instead of doing politics over the economy.

The session was adjourned until 2pm on Friday after opposition pointed out quorum.