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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz has said that despite an economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan is on the road to economic stability.

Faraz, while briefing the media on a federal cabinet's meeting on Tuesday, claimed that "hard times have passed, and good times are about to come". He said the fiscal deficit, which was expected at 9.1 percent, was recorded at 8.1 percent, and the primary deficit, which was anticipated at 3.1 percent was recorded at 1.8 percent.

The minister said current account deficit, which was recorded at $20 billion when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government came into power, was recorded at $13 billion dollars last year, and in 2019-2020 it was further reduced to $3 billion.

"This is an important figure as it affects currency devaluation and exports and imports," he said.

State Bank of Pakistan reserves that were recorded at $8.5 billion dollars have now increased to $12.5 billion, he said, adding that these are reserves other than those held by private banks.

The minister said under the Ehsaas programme, the government has distributed financial assistance to 15 million families.

He said the government adopted the policy of reducing imports and increasing exports, which resulted in the strengthening of the country's economy.

Faraz said the Cabinet was apprised that a historical relief package for the construction sector and resumption of construction activities would create jobs.

He said the prime minister was informed that 891 million rupees had been paid to the media for their outstanding dues on account of advertisements.

He said under the anti-encroachment drive of the government, illegal constructions on Srinagar Highway were removed and trees were planted.

The minister said the world was giving examples of Pakistan the way it had dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.

Faraz said those "who chanted the slogan of strict lockdown are no longer visible today".

He said by the grace of Allah Almighty, the coronavirus pandemic caused less damage to our country than to the developed countries.

He said the federal cabinet had decided to celebrate Independence Day on 14th of August in a befitting manner.

The minister went on to add that the cabinet was briefed regarding the plantation of trees by removing encroachments from Srinagar Highway, and about the pilots' licensing issue.

Touching upon the country's relationship with Saudi Arabia, Faraz said that Riyadh was close to Islamabad and had always stood by the country in times of need.

Responding to allegations by the PML-N leaders after a clash between the party's workers and police near the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) office in Lahore on Tuesday, the minister said that instead of regretting the incident, the party's vice-president Maryam Nawaz held a press conference.

"Today, Maryam Nawaz was called to answer the NAB's questions regarding receiving 200 acres of what was supposed to be government land in Raiwind, and she brought a whole entourage with her," he said, noting that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was also summoned by the anti-graft watchdog in the past but he never arrived with a crowd.

"Congratulations to the media wing of the PML-N for a great drama," he said, adding that today the "Maryam Nawaz group" held a press conference, and tomorrow the "Shehbaz Sharif group" would hold a briefing.

Censuring the PML-N leaders for trying to divert attention from the real issues of the country, Faraz said that all the people involved in looting the country would be held accountable.

Talking about the foreign policy of the country, the information minister said that Pakistan's foreign policy was clear and Kashmir would be Pakistan's first priority.

"We will raise our voice for the people of Kashmir at every level," the minister asserted.

APP adds: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh while briefing the Federal Cabinet on the status of economy and economic indicators during the first two years of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, said the current account deficit had been brought down from $20 billion to only $ 3 billion.

Briefing the media persons about the decisions of cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said the cabinet was informed by the finance advisor that the policy of encouraging exports and discouraging unnecessary imports had paid the dividends.

Shibli Faraz said the present government had also given a historic package for the construction sector as the resumption of construction activities would create jobs and provide housing facilities to the poor. Under the policy, the poor people would be given loans on minimum mark-up ratio and the government would also give subsidy to them in the purchase of housing units.

The government had also given relaxation on taxes to the builders to encourage investment in the housing units, he added.

The minister said the economic wheels had begun to turn again and Rs 300 billion more tax revenue was collected than the target.

He said with the resumption of economic activities, exports had increased and stock exchange shown growth which was an indication of economic stability. Exports reached $ 2 billion mark in the month of July during the current year against $ 1.2 billion in the same month of last year, he added.

He said international institutions had given better ratings to Pakistan's economy, which was a sign of its economic stability. The government had to take difficult decisions and now hard times had almost passed and the nation would soon benefit from good times.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020