- Finance minister says debt-to-GDP ratio was at 87.6 percent last year which dropped to 79.7 percent in March 2021
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate would exceed five percent this financial year and growth of economy is necessary for the creation of two to three million jobs annually, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin told the Senate on Friday.
He was responding to queries from senators related to the economy during question hour at the Senate sitting.
"As of now, we do not have any accurate data but there are very encouraging signs - that the GDP growth rate would exceed five percent. We have taken a number of steps for the economy to grow. Exports have been incentivised and revenues are increasing," he said.
This fiscal year, Tarin said, government's earlier estimates suggested that GDP growth rate would be between 4.8 percent to 5 percent, compared to 3.94 percent to 4 percent recorded in previous fiscal year.
"Our people need two to three million jobs each year. If economy is not allowed to grow, how these jobs would be created?" the minister said.
He said debt-to-GDP ratio was 87.6 percent last year which dropped to 79.7 percent in March 2021.
Taj Haider from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the figures from State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), reflected in the Economic Survey, suggested that debt-to-GDP ratio was 93 percent and not 87.6 percent.
"I have not seen this figure. We have the data which suggests that debt-to-GDP ratio was 87.6 percent, dropped to 79.7 percent," Tarin responded.
To a question by Mohsin Aziz from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Tarin admitted that serious objections were raised by Council of Common Interests (CCI) related to population census 2017.
He said the government would hold a fresh population census and fix responsibility against those responsible for glaring shortcomings in population census 2017 - in case there were 'variations' in the results of new census and 2017 census.
Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamat-e-Islami (JI) said Parliament's approval was mandatory in accordance with Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (FRDL) Act 2005 if debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 60 percent.
"I am sure (the government) might have taken related approval from National Assembly," Tarin responded.
The JI senator contradicted the finance minister, saying approval was never sought from Parliament despite that debt-to-GDP ratio exceeded 60 percent.
Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani asked the finance minister to check with the government regarding the status of the related approval and inform the senator.
"This government alone is not responsible for debt-to-GDP ratio having crossed 60 percent mark. This has been going on for years and mismanagement from previous governments has totally contributed to rising debt-to-GDP ratio," Tarin said, adding the debt servicing in a single year increased to more than Rs 1,500 billion due to mismanagement in the past.
Meanwhile, opposition strongly protested over the increase in fuel prices and lambasted the federal government for its failure to stem the tide of price hike leading to unbridled inflation.
"Finance minister was here in the House but he did not have courage to speak on inflation. For him, it's just Rs 4 to Rs 5 (per litre) increase in fuel prices- but it's a nightmare for public. See the things from the eyes of a common man and you will get to know about their miseries," PPP leader and former chairman Senate Raza Rabbani said.
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Yousaf Raza Gilani said petroleum prices were increased twice last month and many times before. "The common man is destroyed but this government is in deep slumber," he said.
Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem responded that petroleum prices were increased following increase of these prices in international market. "But still, the fuel prices in Pakistan are lower than those in several countries in this region. The government is trying its best to give relief to masses by approving minimum possible increase in petroleum prices," he said.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan informed the House that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) were investigating the case involving poor quality of construction work at New Islamabad International Airport (NIIA). Action would be taken in the light of related inquiries, he said.
The Senate session has been prorogued.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021