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Successive governments in Pakistan have blamed their predecessors for poor performance of the economy and blown their trumpet how great a job they were doing. The PML-N, it appears, is no different from its predecessors. However, once the economic data has been approved by the National Accounts Committee, it attains finality and is published in the official document. We are being told that the average improvement in revenue collection during the last five years is three percent; this is not so. Only in the last year of PPP-led government was it three percent. The five-year average is over 12 percent. In some years including FY12 it was nearly 15 percent. In the first year of this government, the rise in the improvement has been 17 percent on a low collection base primarily due to increase in the rates for Sales Tax and withholding tax - as well as higher rates on top employed professionals. FBR in FY13 was more preoccupied with revamping its technology platform and the game plan for improving the revenue was through better technology. Despite higher collection in absolute numbers, in last few years, a nominal collection of revenue was still below growth plus inflation and as a result the tax-to-GDP ratio fell from 10 percent in FY10 to 8.9 percent in FY13.

42 people were killed and 27 others injured in a horrific accident in Sukkur when their bus rammed into a trailer truck on the national highway. According to reports, the accident happened while the bus tried to overtake a trailer truck. Considering that these vehicles move at a slow speed, the bus should have easily overtaken it, instead, it veered off course and crashed. Apparently, the driver lost control because he tried to pass the truck on a narrow road at high speed, and rammed into it. He is not alive to offer his version. The loss of control could also be the outcome of some other reason such as that his bus was not roadworthy or that the driver neither had proper training nor a driving licence - both are common practices.
Tariq Bajwa, the Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), who is widely known for his impeccable integrity, stated that the government has committed to expand the tax net by 0.1 million new taxpayers every year. Such commitments have been made in the past and it is relevant to note that the two recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes - one approved in November 2008 and the second in September 2013 - focused on tax reforms designed to expand the tax net though the actual number of new taxpayers to be added each year was not a structural benchmark.
Freedom comes at a price, but for the media in Pakistan the price is rather high, almost unaffordable. Since 1992 about 80 journalists have been murdered and many more injured - an unenviable distinction that puts our country among the most dangerous places in the world for working journalists. And the irony is that no one gets caught and punished. Whether the judicial commission set up to investigate the murder attempt on the life of television anchorperson Hamid Mir will help bring to book the criminals we are not optimistic, given the track record of such moves. If anyone involved in killing a journalist or attacking a media house was ever punished there is no example. Of course, there is all the fury and fulmination over such incidents but nothing happens the day after, till there is another such ghastly incident. But this must come to an end. Media acts as the lungs of society and in today's Pakistan its role is all the more critical. Given the enormity of challenges to the lives of people - ranging from misconceived national 'interests' to political pressures to evil designs of the underworld - journalists and media houses are in the line of fire. But there is no escape for them from this high-risk obligation. So let this be the test case for the media to secure its constitutional right of informing the people and for the government to decide how far it can go in delivering on its constitutional responsibility to ensure the media's right to inform and the peoples' right to be informed.
It looks odd, if not altogether confusing, that foreign exchange reserves of the country are increasing and rupee is strengthening when its current account deficit is deteriorating. According to the latest data released by the State Bank on 17th April, 2014, current account deficit of the country during July-March, 2014 was much higher at dollar 2.173 billion than dollar 1.2 billion in the corresponding period last year. Larger deficit was attributable mainly to the substantial fall in exports of services to dollar 3.722 billion in the current year compared to dollar 5.432 billion last year while deficit on merchandise account at dollar 12.08 billion was also somewhat higher by dollar 496 million than last year. While the country has recorded a C/A deficit of over two billion dollars so far, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is continuously boasting about the sharp appreciation of the rupee and the increase of country's foreign exchange reserves to dollar 11.67 billion. Addressing a press conference, he also announced that country's reserves would reach dollar 15 billion by end-September, 2014 and attributed the shoring up of country's reserves to the government's efforts to improve macroeconomic indicators. The worst phase of the economy was now over and the country was on the road to stability, he claimed.
In a perceptive speech he delivered at an international judicial conference in Islamabad, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani made a number of important assertions. Putting the challenges confronting the state and society in proper perspective he said, "Pakistan, like other transitional democracies, has had its share of societal conflicts which reflect sectarian, racial, ethnic and political differences." The Supreme Court, he said, had learned in the post-2007 era how to exert its constitutional authority to bolster and sustain democracy, helping not only in guarding against subversion of constitutional values but also preventing a breakdown and unseemly clashes between institutions. Indeed, conflicting positions taking by state institutions, including the judiciary itself, produced many an anxious moments during the recent years, but in the end they were resolved within the ambit of law and the Constitution.
After a great deal of discussion and brainstorming, the European Union was finally able to approve on 15th April, 2014 the last elements of a new set of rules to prevent failing banks from ever again driving EU member states into bankruptcy. According to the fresh rules, "banking union" would comprise a new oversight system known as the Single Supervising Mechanism which would become operational in November this year under the European Central Bank. The new system would be complemented by a Single Resolution Mechanism which will, when advised by the European Central Bank, step in to stabilise or close down a bank before it can do any wider damage to the economy. A fund ultimately worth 55 billion euros (dollar 76 billion) paid for by the levy on the banks themselves will cover the cost of any closure. Customer deposits will be guaranteed up to 100,000 euros by the banks which would be required to meet this commitment by setting aside enough reserves. Michel Barnier, EU Financial Markets Commissioner was so upbeat about the new arrangement that he said after the Parliament's approval, "we have now in place a true European system to supervise the eurozone banks and deal with any future failures. The new system also puts an end to the era of massive bailouts and ensures taxpayers will no longer foot the bill when banks face difficulties."


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Foreign Debt $60.9bn
Per Cap Income $1,368
GDP Growth 3.6%
Average CPI 7.5%
Trade Balance $-1.433 bln
Exports $2.167 bln
Imports $3.600 bln
WeeklyApril 14, 2014
Reserves $9.713 bln