Finance Minister Mifta Ismail on Friday addressed the National Assembly (NA) session convened to end the budget debate and said the country is no longer on the path of default as it is on the path of progress.
During his address, the minister accused the PTI government of bringing the country to the brink of lapse and said that “we have saved the country from lapse”.
“I want to give this good news to the country today that the country […] It is no longer on the path of default but on the path of progress.”
‘Farmer Friendly Budget’
Miftah Hadi Presented Budget for the financial year 2022-23 on June 10 with an outlay of Rs 9.5 trillion.
As the debate on the budget began in NA today, Ismail said that most of the recommendations made by lawmakers in the Senate and NA during previous meetings were incorporated into the budget.
He announced that the sales tax on cotton cakes (oil cake) was dropped and the budget was termed as “farmer friendly”.
“I don’t think a more farmer-friendly budget has been presented in the last 10 to 20 years,” he said, adding that it reflects the values of the current coalition government.
The minister said that as a result of this “farmer friendly” budget, the country will become self-sufficient in the production of edible oil, wheat and other commodities. “These will be long-term benefits,” he said.
Ismail said that funds for farmers in the budget should not be considered as a subsidy but as an investment. “We believe that if we invest in farmers, they will give us the best returns.”
‘Bad fiscal year’
The minister said he believed the current fiscal year would be considered the worst in Pakistan’s history as “we deviated from several targets and recorded a significant budget deficit”.
He noted that “the federal government has recorded a shortfall of 8.95 percent of the old gross domestic product (GDP)”, adding that this reflects the wide gap between the country’s spending and resources. “And then we have to take money from others,” Ismail said, which is why he had to go on several foreign trips soon after becoming finance minister in April.
“And then when we talk of freedom, independence and self-reliance, what kind of freedom is it that we take a loan of Rs 20,000 billion in three to four years?”
Ismail accused former Prime Minister and PTI chief Imran Khan of taking such a huge debt in a short span of his tenure and said that by doing this we do not move towards freedom but towards slavery.
And then, Ismail, referring to Imran, said, “You should not lecture people that we are leading [true] Independence”.
He also criticized the Imran-led PTI government over the fuel and energy subsidies introduced in February.
He said the subsidy amounted to Rs 120 billion and thanked the PML-N allies in the coalition for acknowledging that the government cannot afford this expenditure in such difficult times.
“Abolishing the subsidy was a difficult decision,” he said and thanked coalition partners again for supporting the decision. “They all believed it would affect the political capital but they all agreed that Pakistan was the first priority.”
‘Resumption of IMF program necessary to save country from default’
Ismail estimated that the current account deficit would have reached around $17 billion in the current fiscal year, adding that the meager reserves of about $10 million could not sustain the deficit.
And that was why it was necessary to restart the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) $6 billion loan program to protect the country from default, Ismail explained.
Sharing details of the government’s talks with the IMF in recent days, he said the moneylender had responded that Pakistan had made “significant progress in financial 23 numbers”.
more to follow