- In press conference on Tuesday, PML-N leader says adding amount of supplementary grant would take deficit's total to Rs6.4tr
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Miftah Ismail, also a former finance minister, on Tuesday informed Pakistan's budget deficit will hit Rs5,600 billion at the end of the ongoing fiscal year, a record high level, as he slammed economic policies of the ousted government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Addressing a press conference at his residence, Miftah – a key member of the PML-N whose president, Shehbaz Sharif, was elected the country's prime minister on Monday after the ouster of Imran Khan – said the previous government informed us that the country would face a deficit of around Rs4,000 billion.
"However, this deficit will balloon to Rs5,600 billion, which is by far the highest deficit in Pakistan’s history," said Miftah, who served as finance minister during 2018.
“If we add the Rs800 billion in supplementary grants, the deficit ends up at Rs6,400 billion,” he said, adding that out of Rs800 billion, Rs220 billion alone needs to be given to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) while another Rs80 billion needs to be disbursed to Gencos to keep them afloat.
Tackling economic issues is one of the main, and most urgent, responsibility of the incoming government, as the South Asian country’s economy faces a number of issues on multiple fronts including a rising inflation rate and depleting foreign exchange reserves.
Terming the Rs373-billion relief package announced by then Prime Minister Imran Khan as a “landmine left for the newly formed government of Shehbaz Sharif”, Miftah said that PTI officials wrongly said that the package could be financed by the government.
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has not agreed on the said package, and we would have to renew negotiations with the international lender,” said Miftah.
Rejecting claims, Miftah said that the previous government never achieved a primary surplus.
The PML-N leader added that Pakistan’s trade deficit is expected to hit $45 billion this fiscal year, which is a record.
“Pakistan imports are going to hit a record $75 billion, whereas the country’s exports will reach $30 billion,” he said.
Miftah said that due to the rising current account deficit, foreign exchange reserves are declining. “Last month alone, forex reserves declined by $5 billion, which is the largest single decrease in foreign exchange reserves in the history of Pakistan,” said Miftah.
“Our government's top priority is to stabilise and increase the foreign exchange reserves,” he said.
Miftah said that in the coming fiscal year Pakistan needs to make payments of $30 billion, for which it is important to take the IMF on board.
Praising announcements made by Prime Minister Shehbaz, Miftah had earlier said that his government increased the pension of pensioners by 10% immediately, and also raised the minimum wage to Rs25,000.
Miftah added that markets reacted positively to Shehbaz Sharif's ascent to the PM House, as the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) posted massive gains, whereas the dollar, which was trading at 190 just days ago, has gone down to 182 against the rupee.