ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance and Revenue Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha has informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance that multilateral and donors will be apprised of the changed ground realities once the accurate losses due to floods are ascertained.
As the proceeding of the committee started under the newly-elected chairman Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, the ruling party’s member of the committee Barjees Tahir pointed out absence of secretary finance and governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and stated that when the meeting was convened to take up important agenda of weakening rupee against the dollar and the biting inflation, their absence was indefensible.
He said that the members wanted satisfactory answers to their questions in this regard but the bureaucracy was not concerned about it. Upon this, the committee expressed resentment over the absence of the secretary finance and observed that in future it would not take up their agenda if any other official turned up in the meeting on their behalf.
Barjees Tahir said he wanted to walk out from the meeting of the committee as protest because the common man is in great difficulty and very displeased with the government. These people were claiming that the dollar would come down to Rs180 after the deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rather the rupee has been weakening.
SBP Deputy Governor Dr Inayat Hussain said it was being assessed as to what would be the impact of floods on fiscal and current account deficits. He added that around $4-5 billion cotton is expected to be imported besides food imports. He further stated that the economic situation is under stress and future prospects are not encouraging.
The meeting was informed that multiple factors – depreciation of rupee, global prices as well as passing on administrative prices and others were fuelling inflation in the country.
While briefing the committee on the IMF, Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha said that the previous government had not fulfilled the condition of the IMF, therefore, the present government had to accept those conditions with a heavy heart, whether it was about primary surplus, petroleum levy or increase in power tariff.
However, she acknowledged that it was the failure of successive governments for not undertaking the necessary structural reforms and today the energy sector, petroleum and power is a major challenge. She said that the IMF has so far disbursed $3.9 billion under Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and $2.6 billion are remaining. She said that the EFF programme has been extended till June 2023 and amount is increased to $6.5 billion. The minister said that the restoration of the IMF program was the foremost priority of the government to save the country.
She also informed the committee that the 9th review of the EFF would either be conducted in the last week of November or first week of the December 2022 based on the data of end September 2022. She also informed the committee about the structural benchmarks of the 9th review and stated that these are mentioned in the IMF report.
Some of them, she said included circular debt management plan, Public Finance Management Act, Single Treasury Account, etc. She said that there is no plan to impose additional taxes. Member operation National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) briefed the committee about the causlties as well as number of people injured and houses damaged by the devastating floods. He said that there were unprecended rain in Balochistan and till September 15, 1,508 deaths have been reported, 12,758 injured, whereas, roads and bridges were badly affected.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022