Myriad challenges to test PTI govt capabilities
Top PTI leaders have consistently been telling the nation that their government inherited a very bad economy from its predecessor and that Prime Minister Imran Khan has now put the same back on track and soon the benefits of the new policies would start benefitting the common man.
On the other hand, opposition parties, especially the PML-N and PPP, equally vehemently allege that the PTI government has ruined the economy and the longer they stay in power the worse would be the situation by every passing day. They demand fresh elections to get rid of the present setup.
In other words the treasury and the opposition are poles apart, something very confusing for the layman about the real situation the country is passing through.
In these circumstances Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday invited a PML-N leader, who served as Special Assistant to PM on Revenue, to hear his views on economy and tax revenues.
The entire team of the prime minister handling the economy was also there to listen to Haroon Akhtar Khan, whose other brother (Humayun Akhtar Khan) is with the PTI. Among the attendees were State Bank of Pakistan Governor Dr Reza Baqir, Planning Minister Asad Umar, Adviser on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh, Food Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar, Commerce Adviser Razak Dawood, Adviser on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Husain and Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar.
According to media reports the prime minister was told by the “guest” that contrary to the perception that the economy was recovering, there were as yet no signs of an economic revival.
Large scale industries have been contracting for the last over 15 months and the exports nose-diving for three months. Similarly, banks’ non-performing loans were on the rise.
Observers say that what Haroon told the premier is exactly what opposition leaders have been saying in parliament and what the PTI bigwigs have summarily been dismissing as criticism for the sake of criticism.
The on-ground situation is that it is very difficult for the common man to make both ends meet because of the rising prices of essential items every day. The state apparatus that is supposed to keep a watchful eye on profiteers and hoarders has completely failed to deliver, government’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
Pragmatism demands that the ruling party should call a special session of parliament on the state of economy to identify the country’s major problems and work out a roadmap to deal with them.
The legislators should discuss measures to avoid lumbering the country with more foreign loans – which only add to the problems – and repay the existing ones. Superfluous to point out that the foreign loans and the strings attached to them have deprived the country of its sovereignty and make it difficult to pursue an independent foreign policy.
Steps needed to promote exports, reduce imports and improve foreign exchange reserves should also be on the agenda.
The parliamentarians should also exchange views on why rupee has continuously been losing value during every party’s rule although all sitting governments made tall claims about the progress made as a result of their ‘revolutionary’ policies.
It is a matter of record that during Gen Musharraf’s period one dollar was available for Rs 60. Today it is about Rs 160 and still the parties that remained in power during the intervening period have the courage to claim that economy was performing better during their rules.
Good steps proposed by the opposition MPs should be accepted whole-heartedly and implemented without delay.
The measures lately decided by the government to rein in prices will be welcomed by the common man. But it should be ensured that these steps remain in place during the entire year.
Ramadan is falling after a few months and this will be the period when hoarders and profiteers will try to make maximum money, forgetting that for Muslims this is the period to help the needy and pocket divine rewards.
Then in May-June the government has to present new fiscal’s budget, which will be another test of the rulers’ ability to keep prices under control.
Challenges on international front, including the Kashmir situation, are also very serious. This is the time for the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan to prove that his government can serve the country better in all situations.