A day after budget, Hafeez Shaikh does not rule out mini-budget

Defends IMF as an institution: Fails to give satisfactory answer to any question at post-budget news conference

By: News Desk      Published: 03:47 PM, 13 Jun, 2020
A day after budget, Hafeez Shaikh does not rule out mini-budget

Advisor to the PM on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Saturday did not rule out the possibility of a mini-budget, saying no one could guarantee that as anything or disaster could happen which might necessitate some “adjustments”.

It was obviously yearly budget, but there could be some adjustments if there were any challenges, he said, answering a question at post-budget press conference in Islamabad.

While blaming the coronavirus for all the problems, he also defended the IMF and said the international financial organisation only asked the countries to balance the income and expenditures.

It wasn’t the time to set minimum wage or increase salaries and pensions, he said in reply to a question while also trying to negate the common impression it is due to the IMF pressure.

The statement came after PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif earlier in the day warned that the PTI government would introduce a mini-budget and try to raise taxes through the backdoor.

“Mark my words: there will be a mini-budget and this PTI government will try to raise taxes through the backdoor,” he said in a series of tweets in which he highlighted the failures of the federal government reflected in the budget presented a day earlier.

Hafeez Shaikh and other government team members faced tough questions at the press conference and failed to give clear replies to most of the queries.

It was also clear that Hafeez Shaikh deflected the difficult questions to others who too failed miserably to satisfy both the audience and the viewers.

When asked about the increasing the tax collection target for the FBR to Rs47,000 billion despite the poor performance [collection expected to be less than Rs3,900 billion] during the current year and in the prevailing economic situation, the prime minister’s advisor described it only as “aspirational”.

But when a reporter raised the issue of a record increase in tax exemptions under the PTI government amid the slogans of expanding tax base, FBR Chairman Nausheen Javed claimed that it wasn’t the case as the total figures represented the overall exemptions given over a longer period of time.  

Similarly, Hafeez Shaikh limited himself to saying that the government was trying to increase per capita income and saving when another reporter posed a question about how to achieve these goals.

As a routine, he accused the previous governments for foreign debt but did not explain the reason why the record debt has been obtained by the current setup during its tenure so far.

Debt servicing is the biggest challenge, he claimed, adding that the coronavirus was a fact, not an excuse.