ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Industries and Production, Hammad Azhar Friday credited the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for increasing foreign exchange reserves to $ 20 billion, saying the federal government’s prudent policies helped stabilise the economy.

Speaking at the Senate following the start of 306th session being presided over by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, the minister said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has foreign exchange reserves of $ 12 billion to $ 13 billion.

“It’s all become possible due to this governments effective and wise economic strategy—to increase exports and remittances.

The current account, he said, that used to show deficit in the past showed a surplus of $1.6 billion during the first five months of current financial year 2020-21. In the same period in the last fiscal year, a deficit of $ 1.7 billion was recorded, he said.

The present government is paying back $ 10 billion of debts annually, he said. “The current government has ensured record debt servicing,” he added.

Moreover, a written reply by Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh at Senate question hour regarding foreign exchange reserves suggested that foreign exchange reserves were recorded at $ 14.48 billion in June 2019, $ 18.88 billion in June 2020, $ 19.39 billion in October 2020, $ 20.26 billion in November 2020 and $ 20.51 billion in December 2020.

Meanwhile, Hammad Azhar told the Senate that key development projects worth $ 1.7 billion are underway in Gwadar while construction of three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been sped up.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood said in a written reply at question hour that federal government introduced an export package of Rs 180 billion to facilitate the business community and arrest the declining trend in exports. During Phase-I of the PM Package, the exporters of gloves, footballs and other sports goods, leather garments, footwear, surgical and cutlery sectors were provided cash support at specific percentage of Free On Board (FOB) value of exports, he said. During Phase-II, the package was extended with certain modifications by allowing 50 per cent of the incentive to all eligible sectors and the remaining 50 per cent of incentive was linked to at least 10 per cent enhancement in exports as compared to the corresponding period of the last year, he added. During Phase III, the package was further extended for the next three years (2018-21) on the same terms and conditions as was approved in the second phase with the addition of more non-textile sectors—electric fans, transport equipment, auto part accessories, machinery including electric machinery, furniture, stationary, fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, the advisor added.

The opposition staged a walkout from Senate alleging that treasury benches failed to address its concerns regarding Lieutenant General ® Asim Saleem Bajwa, who, the opposition said, continued to work as Chairman CPEC Authority despite that CPEC Authority Ordinance 2019 lapsed last year.

“The CPEC Authority Ordinance 2019 was lapsed on May 31, 2020, (as confirmed by Planning Minister Asad Umar in his written reply). This means the CPEC Authority has ceased to function. Then, in what capacity, has Asim Bajwa recently met the Chinese ambassador?” said Barrister Javed Abbasi from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).

Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) said “An individual facing corruption allegations should not be at the helm of CPEC Authority.”

Industries and production minister responded, “Why does the opposition want to elevate a person involved in Broadsheet and Panama Papers scandals as the prime minister of this country,” impliedly referring to Nawaz Sharif.

“The Chinese ambassador meets opposition leaders and so many other people. What’s so unusual with his meeting anyone at the CPEC Authority? There’s nothing wrong with that,” Azhar said. The opposition termed this response as unsatisfactory and staged a walkout but rejoined the House proceedings later.

Advisor to PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said “The entire Pakistan is saying— how this firm Broadsheet was hired during the tenure of General ® Musharraf— how it was not allowed to work— how NRO one happened— how NRO two happened—the situation necessitates the urgency of a thorough probe into the matter.”

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Parliamentary Leader in Senate Sherry Rehman criticised the government for dissolving Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), which she said, has become a cause of immense suffering for thousands of doctors.

Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem responded, “They (PPP) should not forget that their record in health sector is not good at all. The situation in areas like Thar and Larkana is known to us. There is no vaccine even to treat dog bite in those areas. Let’s us not indulge in blame game and work together to improve health conditions in Pakistan,” he said.

The House would meet again on Monday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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