ISLAMABAD: The Government and the opposition held each other responsible for the country’s economic woes as the discussion on the budget for the next fiscal year opened in the Senate on Monday.
Opening the discussion, leader of the opposition in the house Yousuf Raza Gilani stressed that the goal of economic stability could never be achieved without political stability.
Wondering as to why the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws were different from the ordinary laws he said he spent ten years in jail, but did not get remission of a single day unlike other prisoners.
Noting that the circular debt had reached to a dangerously high level of Rs2,400 billion, he said the finance minister had indicated that it would take seven to eight years to address the issue completely.
He also said that the government wanted to jack up power tariff in six phases to collect additional revenues of Rs934 billion by 2022, under the agreement reached with the IMF. He said the IMF does. It seem to be ready to review the conditions set in the agreement.
He criticised the government for 100 percent increase in the prices of some essential commodities at a time when the income and purchasing power had gone down due to Covid-19 pandemic.
He said all the provinces should be given equal right in the public sector development programme (PSDP), but said it was being heard that some provinces were being ignored.
Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem speaking next said the IMF had been told in clear terms that there will be no increase in the power tariff.
He congratulated Prime Minister Imran Khan and his economic team for presenting a pro-people, balanced and growth oriented budget under difficult circumstances.
Chiding the PPP and PML-N for playing the musical chair of power for years, he said Pakistan was one of the fastest growing economies when the PPP came into power in 2008. He said even the Pakistan Steel Mills and PIA were profit making entities that time.
He, however, regretted that the reforms policy was wrapped up. He said in 2018 the PTI inherited an economy close to economic collapse, with the largest ever current account deficit in the history.
He said a difficult decision of going to IMF had to be taken to avert bankruptcy, as Imran Khan once again led from the front.
He said the previous governments had gone to the IMF for 21 times before, but never made structural changes or focussed on growth.
He said the present government reduced the import of luxury items, focused on boosting exports and reviving the sick industry.
Dr Shahzad Waseem said the growth rate of four percent in the challenges posed by Covid-19 was just the beginning of the journey of progress and prosperity.
He claimed that it would be taken up to 6-7 percent in next two years.
He also chided the opposition for signing costly agreements with IPPs binding the coming governments in the ‘capacity payment chains’.
Senator Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party said that his province was at the top in terms of illiteracy but in PSDP, no allocations were made for a new university. Likewise, he urged for allocations for establishment of a big hospital in the province.
He also raised the issue of the anchoring of a ship at the Gadani shipbreaking yard despite Interpol’s warning that the ship contains dangerous chemicals.
He stressed that the minister concerned should be summoned to explain why these trawlers were allowed, he said.
The chair directed that report from Secretary Maritime Affairs Ministry be sought on this matter and he also referred the matter to the house standing committee concerned.
PML-N Senator Saadia Abbasi raised questions over the economic performance of the PTI government and claimed that the previous government had left a booming economy with promising indicators.