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EDITORIAL: A new trend of inter-ministerial disputes spilling out into the open seems to be developing, which suggests rifts in the ruling coalition. Two recent examples, at least, stand out. One, there are reports of the commerce ministry officially joining the chorus of discontent against the finance ministry and FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) over an “unjust federal budget tailored in consultation with the IMF” because it is not supportive of the export sector. This came out at a meeting of the senate standing committee on commerce, so it deserves very serious consideration.

And while the ministry is well within its rights to project and protect the interests of exporters, one wonders why these crucial discussions did not take place when the budget was being prepared. Surely, the commerce ministry would have known, like the whole world did, that the budget would revolve around extremely contractionary “upfront conditions” set by the Fund – the price for the EFF (Extended Fund Facility) that will keep the country from defaulting for a few more years. Similarly, the finance ministry does not need to be told of the importance of the commerce ministry, which brings foreign exchange into the country, so it’s shocking that there were clearly not enough discussions between them ahead of the budget.

And two, it turns out that the planning ministry has refuted the foreign office’s statement about the $6.7 billion Mainline-I (ML-I) project of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), contending that ECNEC (Executive Committee of the National Economic Council) did not defer the approval of the scheme last week. It is, of course, very unusual for the planning ministry to contest an official statement of the foreign office. ML-I has been dogged by controversy for years and must have triggered numerous discussions and disagreements among many different government departments, especially given the sensitivity of negotiating a concessional loan with the Chinese. But why are seasoned politicians with long experiences of running top ministries suddenly letting such differences come out into the public domain and also reach the foreign press?

Perhaps our political leaders need to be reminded that the system of parliamentary democracy, which they love to claim to protect and promote, mandates the federal cabinet to invoke constitutional procedures to settle all such issues amicably. It is very unprofessional, indeed unforgivable, that top ministries are not communicating properly even at very crucial times about the most sensitive matters and then leaking their frustrations to the media. Now, who’s to blame for all the chatter about cracks beginning to appear in the ruling coalition?

Let’s not forget that it’s the ordinary people that suffer the most from such political paralysis. If the government did not have all its own ministries on board when passing an extremely important federal budget, how could it expect the rest of the country to accept it without reservations? And if different departments and ministries are falling all over each other even when it comes to projects of high national importance, how can anybody expect the country to benefit from them?

The government isn’t exactly working like a well-oiled machine at the moment. It must fix this problem, or risk becoming even more dysfunctional as the new IMF programme rolls on.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU Jul 10, 2024 02:47pm
The ministries are having a time of their existence, if BR divulges inside news, it will blow your socks off. Share of pies it is n in urgency, something is cooking n doesn't smell good for nation.
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