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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar has said the economy of the country is moving in the right direction. Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, on Friday, the minister said that “oil prices in Pakistan are the lowest in the world”. He said the government has brought down the Petroleum Development Levy (PL) to two percent.

He said the figures given by Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on poverty and unemployment are “full of contradictions”.

He told the PPP chairman that the inflation rate in his party’s rule (2008-2013) was 21 percent during the first year, 11.7 percent in the second year, and for the third year it was 11 percent.

He said that today the average rate of inflation is 8.5 percent.

The minister said the country’s economy has entered the growth phase with foreign exchange reserves standing at six years high while the current account deficit is in surplus.

Referring to the “bumper” crops of wheat, sugarcane, and maize, he said the benefit of this directly reached the farmers as the government ensured that they received the due price of their produce.

He said that the government has a comprehensive plan to address the capacity payments in the power sector.

He said the present government enhanced the capacity of power transmission system and Rs100 billion has been set aside in the FY22 budget to further improve it.

He said that the federal government was providing 550 MW electricity to K-Electric on a daily basis.

The minister said that there was 51 percent sales tax on petroleum products during the PML-N government, while it is 17 percent at present.

He said it was the PPP that went to the IMF more frequently than any other government in the past.

The minister said, “Those who have never done anything to improve the country’s economy and have no knowledge thereof delivered an immature speech on the government’s budget and economic policies.”

He asked the Opposition to examine the budget documents once again and point out what taxes, as they claim, have been levied in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

“It looks like the Opposition is having a hard time digesting that the country under the rule of the PTI has achieved a four percent growth [in the midst of Covid-19],” said Azhar, adding that the PPP could not achieve even one percent growth during its five-year tenure.”

He said that the PTI had come to power after being elected, adding that it had not “threatened or bribed its way into government”.

He said that Bilawal had talked about the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) but its then chairperson had recently been declared a proclaimed offender due to “corruption of Rs1.5 billion”.

He said that some people were only getting stipends from the BISP due to their affiliation with the PPP, while the names of hundreds of well-off people were omitted from the list of the BISP after an audit by the incumbent government.

Through the Ehsaas program, the minister said that 16 million people were provided financial relief during last year.

He said that the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) was closed down during the tenure of the PML-N in 2015, while allegations were being levelled against the present government.

The minister said that subsidy is being given on urea as usual, while the prices of Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP) were defined the global markets as 70 percent of DAP is imported.

Azhar said the PTI endeavoured during the first two years for stabilisation of economy, adding that the economy is in growth phase during the third year of government’s five-year tenure.

He said that loans of 10-12 billion dollar are being returned annually. He said the international rating agencies have appreciated the economic progress of the country, while Pakistan has set a precedent for rest of the world through its highly successful strategy against the Covid-19.

The minister said that industries in Pakistan are expanding due to the policies of the government, while the agriculturists are also satisfied due to immediate payment to them of their produce.

He said that smaller provinces have been given more share in the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP), while dams such as Dasu and Diamer-Bhasha are on the priority list of the government.

He said that steps have been taken to fulfill the conditions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and “there is no chance of the country’s inclusion in the black list due to the prudent policies of the government”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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