ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) yesterday questioned the claim of PML-N government that country’s economy has turned around because of its good performance.

PTI challenged the claim of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the government’s performance remained outstanding on economic front during this term. “When you look at the facts, you discover that like most other claims of this government there is nothing but hot air and the moment you subject it to scrutiny using facts and figures the claim fizzles out like a punctured balloon,” said PTI Asad Umar.

The government has for some time now been trumpeting the increase of foreign exchange reserves since it came into power. Yesterday the Prime Minister decided to jump into this fray as well. Congratulating Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on outstanding economic performance during the current government’s term he mentioned the increase in foreign exchange reserves as a key measure of this “accomplishment”. “So what are the facts? Using State Bank of Pakistan data we find out the following,” Umar said.

He said the total official foreign currency reserves of Pakistan were 6.4 billion dollars when this government came into power. These reserves on March 31, 2016 stood at 16.1 billion dollars, an increase of 9.7 billion dollars. This is what the government claims as its great achievement. He said that actually the increase in reserves come about as the total external debt and liabilities of Pakistan increased by 8.7 billion dollars. He said that in other words 90 per cent of the increase in reserves has come about as a result of increasing the foreign debt of Pakistan but even this is not the full story.

The net increase of reserves after accounting for the increase in external debt comes to only a billion dollars. Now lets look at another proud achievement of the government i.e. selling the government shares of previously privatised entities. Four such transactions have taken place during the term of this government. i.e. Habib bank, Allied bank, United bank and Pakistan Petroleum. The total foreign exchange proceeds from the sale of these shares come to over a billion dollars. In other words the entire build up in foreign currency reserves has happened due to a combination of increased external debt of Pakistan and the sale of national assets, he said.

He said the second measure of success mentioned by the Prime Minister is the reclassification of Pakistan from frontier to emerging market status in the Morgan Stanley Composite Index which according to the PM reflects the tremendous improvement in the economy of Pakistan. The only problem is that the MSCI classification index framework states that the sustainability of economic development is not even a criteria for classification of frontier and emerging markets. Essentially the differentiation between frontier and emerging markets is only based on ease of entry and exit of investors, particularly foreign investors , into a stock market, he added. “I wish someone had taken a printout of the framework (its only 2 pages) and shown it to the PM before putting him in the position of making this absurd claim ,” he added.

Umar pointed out that another achievement acclaimed by the PM was the increase in revenues of the government. Had he bothered, or cared to look at the breakdown, he would have seen that the entire increase is coming from indirect taxes and the direct tax to GDP ratio has actually declined during the term of this government.

“In other words those who have offshore companies do their shopping in the most expensive shops in the world, buy properties in Dubai and London , park their billions in Swiss bank accounts are not being made to pay their fair share of taxes and the entire burden is being placed on the middles classes and the poor,” he added.

But then robbing the middles classes and poor to feed the super rich has always been central to Nawaz Sharif’s vision of the economy, he alleged.

However there is one piece of good news coming from the prime minister’s statement and that is the PM did take time out of his hectic schedule of shopping at Harrods to talk about Pakistan and its economy, he concluded.