ISLAMABAD -  Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Friday said that immediate task for the new economic team was the preparation of next fiscal year’s budget and meeting the time lines of various ongoing reforms and initiatives. The minister made these remarks while chairing a meeting to review progress on various programmes and activities of the Ministry of Finance. The newly appointed Finance Secretary Tariq Bajwa also participated in the meeting.

Dar felicitated Bajwa on his appointment as finance secretary. He said that it was a challenging assignment and brought with it a significant level of responsibility. He expressed the hope that the new secretary will prove himself equal to the challenge as he brought with himself a vast experience of working in different key positions including Punjab Finance Department secretary, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and Economic Affairs Division secretary. He expressed satisfaction with the performance of Finance Division and advised the officials to ensure that various targets set for the ministry are achieved.

Dar also chaired a meeting on matters related to the Debt Policy Coordination Office here at the Ministry of Finance. The minister emphasized the importance of prudent debt management for a growing economy. Referring to his article on Pakistan’s debt, published earlier this week, he said that the purpose of the article was to emphasize that the country is properly managing its debt, and to dispel any notion that the country is at risk with regard to debt obligations in the foreseeable future.

He further said that the sustainability profile of public debt has improved significantly during the present government. He urged the Debt Office to continue its efforts to further improve the debt sustainability profile. Dar expressed his satisfaction that the Net Debt to GDP ratio has remained unchanged at 60.2 percent, during the period from July 2013 to June 2016.

He emphasized that the Net Debt to GDP ratio has been maintained at this level despite the fact that the present government has enhanced Federal Development spending from Rs348 billion in FY 2013 to Rs800 billion for FY 2017, and has increased cash income support to the most vulnerable from Rs40 billion to Rs115 billion in three years to end June 2016.

The minister highlighted that fiscal deficits have been curtailed from 8.2 percent to 4.6 percent of GDP in three years. The meeting was also attended by senior officials of the Ministry of Finance.