ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance Asad Umar Wednesday said the surveys held to evaluate the performance of the economy, after passing of 100 days of current government, suggested that the economy was moving in the right direction.
“Hope is very much in the air,” he said while speaking in BBC TV programmed Hard Talk.
If you looked in reality, keeping aside the discussions going on in TV talk shows, you would find that a number of surveys got carried out recently, showed that the government was doing correct things to set the economy in the right direction. To a question, the minister said when the current government came into power; it was a well known fact that Pakistan needed some kind of bailout.
Therefore, the government had to go around to the friendly countries to seek some kind of immediate assistance to support the reeling economy, he added.
Asad said when he became finance minister, the government reached out to the friendly countries for bilateral financial assistance as well as starting a dialogue with IMF simultaneously, because it had no time to first work out a strategy and then start negotiations.
“That was what I exactly did within 10 days of becoming finance minister; we reached out to International Monetary Fund (IMF) and started formal dialogue with it along with going to the friendly countries for assistance.”
To another query, the finance minister said, “We did not wait for IMF to impose any condition on us to do what we were required to do, in the very first 100 days we increased electricity prices, gas prices, we put in place a supplementary finance budget, we increased taxes, the currency has been adjusted by the central bank, and policy rate has also been increased.”
He said both the monetary and fiscal policies were moving in direction of reforms that are required by the IMF.
“There is no difference of opinion with the IMF in terms of what needs to be done it is the pace, the sequence in the extent which is being discussed,” he added. To a question regarding Saudi Arabia’s assistance, the minister said, “I would be happy to be ashamed of standing out with a country with which we have close cooperation… may be the western leaders should be ashamed of themselves talking about freedom, talking about democracy and reaching out in the same Saudi pockets to take billions of dollars of business deals and the leader of Western world Donald Trump stands up and openly says that I am getting very much business from Saudi Arabia so there is no need to worry about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.”
“We are just consistent in the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia which remains the same regardless of which government is in the power,” he added.
He said Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia goes back half a century and it had got nothing to do with Yemen or Khushoggi.With respect to investment under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Balochistan, the minister said Balochistan government was eager to enhance investment in the province under CPEC.
He said Pakistan’s debts payable to China were only less than 10 percent of its total debts while the US was the largest deter of China with over $1.3 trillion.
To another question, Asad Umar said people of Balochistan were patriotic Pakistanis but there were some sponsored activities of terrorists who were trained and funded from out of Pakistan.
“There is concerted efforts led by India to damage CPEC.
People of Balochistan have elected a government that fully stands by CPEC and have also shown loyalty with Pakistan.”
To a question regarding tax reforms he said the government took several new initiatives aimed at enhancing tax base and revenue for socio-economic development of the country.
“The revenue generation aspect is absolutely central to be able to deal with the horrendous challenge that we have.”
“Health and education situation needs drastic reforms and for that you need revenue and for that you need an efficient revenue authority,” he said adding “We have separated tax policy from tax administration.
Almost entire top leadership of revenue authority has been changed, modern technology is being utilized to chase out those, who are evading taxes and 3100 of them have already been served notices, whereas a list of over 7000 top tax evaders has been prepared.”