IMF, circular debt top list of ‘achievements’

Federal Minister for finance, revenue and statistics Ishaq Dar Wednesday informed Senate about the details of agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the resolution of Rs 480 billion circular debt, vowing greater government transparency. In a policy statement made in Senate in response to opposition senators’ demand about the details of payments made to different power generation companies, he said the government had cleared “the mess” created by the previous regime.

— Dar vows greater government transparency

Giving details of Rs 480 billion of circular debt, the minister said the government issued Rs 128 billion Pakistan Investment Bonds, saved Rs 128 billion from developmental expenditures, Rs 138 billion recovered from different departments, collected Rs 20 billion as dividend; and only Rs 58 billion cash payment was made from federal divisible pool.

He informed the house that the government was paying 14 percent interest over these liabilities (circular debt) and through clearance, the government saved Rs 55 billion annual payment of Pakistan. Through resolution of circular debt, Dar said the current government also added 1700MW power to the system, which greatly helped in improving industrial production.

He asked the opposition to stop politics on economic issues for three years, and then take results from him. He also informed the House that the payment of circular debt was made by the ministry of water and power and not by the finance ministry. The minister also said that from July to November 2013, the budget deficit remained 2.7 percent, remittances increase by 7 percent, stock exchange soared by 27 percent. Several decisions were taken which helped in spurring the economy.

Explaining mismanagement by PPP government, he said they had suddenly increased the salaries of two State Bank of Pakistan deputy governors from Rs 0.7 million to Rs 1.5 million but the current government reversed the decision, thus saving the taxpayers’ money. “I reduced salary of the two deputy governors of SBP, which were doubled on a mere phone call of a former finance minister-…the governor was allowed to purchase a bullet-proof car, which I stopped,” he added.

Billions of dollars had been spent over establishing a TV channel and Rs 50 billion of Workers Welfare Fund was given to ministry of commerce by the previous government, he said, adding there were multiple examples of wrongdoings of previous government and the records of which were available. He underscored the need for forming a committee to discuss all such wrongdoings with facts and figures.

A hard-hitting speech of the finance minister infuriated leader of opposition in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan. The house witnessed bumpy proceedings when Dar claimed to have corrected the economic blunders made by the PPP government. Aitzaz demanded that his speech should also be telecast live, which the chair accepted. In his speech, Aitzaz said that the appointment of prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz as head of the Rs 100-billion Youth Business Loan scheme was unjust as she was hand-picked being the daughter of the premier.

“This is not the first example on the part of Nawaz Sharif as his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif as Punjab Chief Minister Punjab who is also involved in matters related to foreign policy while his nephew Hamza Shehbaz Sharif is actually running the province,” Aitzaz said.

The opposition leader, however, did not speak on the ‘wrongs’ of PPP government. He said that due to the government’s own failures in the last six months, the finance minister appeared to be in panic and was levelling baseless charges against the previous regime. Aitzaz termed the statistics given by the minister a jugglery of figures. “I want to ask the minister whether or not you have said a single word in your speech about the poor man of Pakistan. Certainly not. The PML-N is a party of mill owners, businessmen and…,” the senator remarked.

He said the MD PEPCO had written a letter to the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, wherein he pointed out to financial embezzlement worth Rs 18 billion only in Nandipur power project. Aitzaz said the issue relating to the SBP governors should be referred to the concerned house committee, as desired by ex-finance minister Saleem Mandviwalla. He challenged the minister to make a budget of a family that earned Rs 8,000-9,000 per month and quipped: “he could not, then how could they make a budget for 180 million people of Pakistan.”

Author: Zulfiqar Ahmad

Source: Business Recorder