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LAHORE: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail on Wednesday expressed the hope that Pakistan would reach a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by next week which will help strengthen the Pak rupee and the economy.

“Our talks with IMF are underway. The federal budget 2022-23 will be presented on June 10 after which we are hoping to enter into an agreement with the Fund by next week. The Board meeting and other formalities will continue later but it will bring calmness to the market and strength the economy,” Miftah said during a zoom conversation with editors and senior journalists Monday.

He rebutted that the government would enforce any financial emergency or overseas Pakistanis had stopped sending remittances. “We had highest ever remittances in the April 2022 while there is no reduction in deposits of Roshan Digital Accounts (RDA) as well. There are some digital media campaigners who are pro-PTI, and they are spreading rumors which are not only against the government but also Pakistan that dollar or other accounts would be frozen,” he said.

Miftah once again made it clear that neither overseas travel is being banned nor dollar accounts, Roshan digital accounts or safety deposit lockers are being frozen. He said the government has taken some austerity measures and enhanced petroleum products prices. He said he would be talking about the economy with figures while launching economic survey of Pakistan on Thursday. He said some package would also be given for overseas Pakistanis after the federal budget is announced.

Regarding a question about the Pak rupee, he said he is happy that the rupee has shown some recovery today. He said reduction in the Pak rupee against dollar was due to rumors. However, two-three events happening in near future including agreement with IMF and receipt of US$ 2.4 billion from China would push the reserves up to US$ 12 billion which would help rupee stabilise rather it would gain something.

About the appointment of a permanent State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor, Miftah Ismail said he has no issue with Acting Governor Murtaza Syed who, according to him, is performing well. He said he will sit with the Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif after presenting the federal budget to decide whether Murtaza Syed will continue or some other person is brought to head the Central Bank. However, he said a first class person would be chosen which could calm the market.

Answering another query about steps to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), he said investment slowed down during last four years because work was slow on infrastructure projects under CPEC. He said proposed special economic zones were not built under CPEC-II and we could not ensure smooth supply of energy because of which some APTMA member mills were not operational today. He claimed Pakistan had most efficient energy production system but most inefficient energy distribution and billing system. He said Rs 120 billion were given as subsidy during the current year as subsidy to the power sector, while another Rs 500 under circular debt.

The finance minister said it seemed nothing had been done during the last four years and Pakistan was standing right where the PML-N led government left it. He said how could new investors be attracted when new entrants are being charged Rs 4000 per MMBTU against the old players who are being charged Rs 1100 per MMBTU. Similarly, he said different provinces had different point of view on gas prices. He said we could not attract new investors without giving regionally competitive prices of energy. He said we have to give a guaranteed reasonable price it would attract both FDI and the local investment. He was of the view that FDI could only be attracted once local investors make investments.

To a question that why legislation on energy prices is not being implemented, Miftah assured that the incumbent government would bring improvement in the issue of energy prices. Regarding any taxation on digital media, he said they have yet to receive any proposal and would look into it if FBR proposes something.

Federal Minister for Information Maryam Aurangzeb taking part in the discussion said the government is setting up three tier information centre so that the media can obtain any information or verify any news regarding the budget.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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