ISLAMABAD   -   Explaining as to why the country’s economy is in a bad shape, Finance Minister Asad Umar has seen light at the end of tunnel.

“There are two reasons why we’re in this mess. We have a budget deficit and secondly our external deficit,” he said while addressing a question and answer session on the state of economy Wednesday.

“To resolve this you either need to increase exports or decrease imports. Our immediate action was to cut imports, which slows down the economy.”

The session, broadcast live on the social media accounts of ruling PTI, showing the minister answering the queries of an assortment of journalists.

Likening the economy to a patient who is going under the knife in the operation theatre, Asad said: “The person is being operated on and it seems that he has been cut open but the fact that he is being operated on to rectify fundamental problems.”

About the creation of two million jobs a year, the minister said: “They say that if the economy does not grow at a seven per cent rate, two million jobs won’t be created. As a rule of thumb that reasoning is fine, but it also depends on what our priorities are. Tourism, SMEs, IT, and housing all are priorities, and all these sectors have the potential of job creation. There will be growth from year three onward but it would be sustainable and long term.”

He added: “In September, I went to the PSX and I was asked the same question that when would growth be seen in the economy. I told them that we’d go through a stabilisation period of two years after six months of extreme turbulence. Then there will be growth. And now that we are out of survival zone, the purse strings will be loosened.”

He clarified the claim that he gave suggestion to PML-N to set prices for petroleum products at Rs46 when the last government raised the price.

“I had never said that petrol should be Rs46 per litter. I had said that tax should be lower than it was. Tax ratio at the time was 52 per cent, right now it is 30 per cent. Had we kept the same taxes as before than we could have gathered Rs97b more from the public. We have actually lowered the tax ratio. Ogra does petrol price’s calculations. On April 1, when the new prices were recommended, the only thing the government did was reduce the recommended price by Rs5.”

About the plan to introduce another amnesty scheme, the finance minister admitted that the idea of amnesty schemes was controversial but was need of the hour due to the prevalent system.

“However, if amnesty scheme does come, public officers and civil servants won’t be eligible, even though some journalists have pointed out that they have the most money.”

The minister again defended government’s plan on IMF programme.

“Is the economy in this state for the first time? We have two world records: one in trolling and the other in entering IMF programmes. I told IMF team that ‘I don’t want to burden my nation with more loans’. “When you take a responsibility you also have to take a position. They used to say that IMF programme should be taken immediately so that markets don’t run away. After six months, our reserves are in a better shape. I did not rush into an IMF programme just to avoid criticism. Having said that, an agreement will be reached soon.”ax