PM’s aides responsible for price-hike must be fired immediately

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 12:12 PM, 26 Oct, 2021
PM’s aides responsible for price-hike must be fired immediately
File photo of SBP governor speaking in Manchester.

State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqar’s recent ‘revelation’ about the ‘blessings’ of the gradual devaluation of Pakistani rupee has unmasked the mindset of the man holding one of the most important positions dealing with national economy.  

At a press conference in Manchester a few days ago, he said: "The number of remittances sent by our overseas Pakistanis — after their hard work and effort — is increasing due to exchange rate [fluctuation]." 

The higher exchange rate had caused some people to lose out but benefitted others as well, he argued. 

"Suppose if our remittances in this year reach $30 billion — we hope they will be even more — and if our exchange rate [against the dollar] in the last few months has depreciated even 10 percent then an additional $3bn are reaching the families of overseas Pakistanis — this turns out to be more than Rs500bn",  the bearded SBP chief said. 

This is certainly a 'scholarly' explanation given by the SBP governor that left everyone in the country with no option but to 'thank' (read curse) the prime minister that he discovered such a diamond for this important post. 

This enlightening approach also means that since the governor is convinced about the benefits of depreciation, he is implementing his belief as a policy – and its benefits are reaching the common man.  

But is it really the right approach from the economy’s point of view?  Should such a person be retained on this important job when his policies can make people’s lives easier or difficult?   

No sane person can agree with the SBP governor’s approach. 

Senior PML-N MNA Khwaja Muhammad Asif says Reza Baqar first ruined Egypt’s economy and now he is going to give same treatment to Pakistan economy. 

The statement cannot just be rejected as the one coming from an opposition leader.  

Another most important person from economy’s point of view is Shaukat Tarin, who was finance minister until recently but has been re-designated as advisor because he could not be elected as a member of parliament during the six months set for the purpose. 

Now a KP Senator has vacated his seat to enable Mr Tarin to get elected on account of PTI’s strength in the provincial legislature. His powers, however, remain almost the same. 

Before Mr Tarin, Dr Hafeez Shaikh was holding this position. He was also not a member of parliament and when the government tried to get him elected as an MNA from an Islamabad, he could not win. 

Like Mr Baqar, he too was said to be a man backed by international lenders. 

Here a very legitimate question arises: Is out of 180 MNAs now with the PTI there is none competent enough to run the economy and rid the country of foreign shackles? 

If so, then will it be right to conclude that the PTI did not get anybody, suitable for this role, elected in the 2018 elections.  

Likewise, it also means there is none among 220 million people of Pakistan who could be appointed against this job. 

Patriotism demands that the prime minister should try to find out such a person who could serve the country instead of working on foreign agenda.  

This is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, people’s plight will continue to worsen and those who are supposed to avert problems will continue to inflict more wounds. 

Already, there are reports that Pakistan has agreed to implement most of the conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund to get restored its stalled $6 billion extended loan facility. 

The IMF board will pronounce the final decision regarding the resumption of Pakistan’s loan programme. After the Fund’s approval, Pakistan will get $1 billion tranche under the extended loan facility. 

It is said Pakistan has agreed to raise tax collection, speed up privatization process and introduce reforms in the power sector as suggested by the IMF. 

The Fund has asked the Finance Ministry to review its economic targets. 

It has also imposed condition of raising interest rate and fixing market rate of dollar. 

The IMF country representative in Islamabad has been quoted as saying that the representatives of Pakistan and the Fund are reviewing the economic policies and reforms for the completion of the sixth review. 

As a result of depreciation of the rupee prices of almost all items have shot up within no time, providing the opposition parties with a strong justification to launch a movement against the PTI government. Rallies are being staged in almost all parts of the country and the situation would aggravate in times ahead if those in power did not take immediate steps to bridle inflation. Hit hard by the price hike the common man will be left with no option but to join the protests. And this will not be in the interest of the country and the PTI government. 

The prime minister should immediately fire the elements whose policies are leading to inflation and bring in experts who could set right the direction of the economy and mitigate the sufferings of the people.