Government focus will now shift to growth: Dar

WEB DESK: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Friday that the government has achieved internationally acceptable level of four per cent fiscal deficit during the last two years and its focus now would be on growth and employment generation in the remaining period.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of information and communication technology (ICT) initiative for girls empowerment organised by ministry of information technology in collaboration of Bait-ul mal, Universal Services Fund and Microsoft.

The Finance Minister said from now onwards the government focus would be on employment generation after reducing fiscal deficit to 4 per cent from 8 per cent during last two years. The current 4 per cent fiscal deficit, he said, is internationally acceptable for developing countries, adding that the reduction in fiscal deficit is achieved by imposing a ban on duty free import of vehicles for VIPs and reduction in current expenditure.

However, he admitted, the country needs more economic reforms for sustainable progress on the economic front and took credit for increasing allocations for social safety net to Rs 102 billion during the last two years. He averred that economic reforms would not be undertaken at the cost of social safety network. He said that this is part of the manifesto of the ruling party to bring the poor out of poverty line and increase in allocations from Rs 40 to Rs 102 billion of Benazir Income Support Programme was a reflection of the government’s commitment to its manifesto.

The Finance Minister, as has become his usual practice, referred to the poor state of the economy when the present government came to power after 2013 generation elections and claimed significant improvements during the last two years.

Dar also criticized the previous government for going to Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) forum for financial help to fund the war against terrorism and stated that the present government has managed Rs 190 billion for the Zarb-e-Azb and rehabilitation of IDPs from its own resources.

The Finance Minister said the present government is working on a plan to generate 25,000MW of electricity and 10000 MW would be added to the national grid during the tenure of the present government.

The government, he said, has been able to increase foreign exchange reserves of State Bank of Pakistan from $3 billion to $15 billion and is striving to increase forex reserves to $21 billion in a few months.

Dar said the government is trying to improve the lives of those who live below the poverty line. One million jobs would be created in Information and Communication Technologies sector next year, the Minister stated.