LAHORE    -   Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar said Sunday that government had managed to stabilise economy as well as improve rupee value against dollar by taking instant and effective measures.

Addressing a news conference along with Punjab Industry and Trade Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal here, he said country’s economy would now enter into growth phase.

He mentioned that after coming into power, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had to take tough decisions on economic front because country’s current account deficit at that time was US$20 billion, while Pakistan had to payback US$10.5 billion foreign debt in addition to its mark-up, asserting that foreign exchange reserves depleted to half during last 17 months of PML-N government.

The minister said difficult time was over as economic indicators were now positive, citing that foreign exchange reserves and rupee value were stable today.

To a question, he explained that government had to increase the power tariff so as to vacate huge power sector’s circular debt.

The present government had also put in place effective measures which helped stop electricity theft with estimated worth of Rs82 billion during last one year, he added.

Hammad Azhar assured that government would not opt such measures, which could be harmful for the business and trade activities, asserting that today, all institutions were on the same page to make Pakistan among top listed countries within next five years.

Following the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to initiate social safety programme for poverty-stricken segments of society, he said, the present government launched Ehsaas Programme that was also a role model for other countries as well.

To another question, Hammad Azhar said Sehat Insaf Card was part of Ehsaas programme that would provide health facility to every deserving family without any discrimination, asserting that federal authorities were all set to launch Sehat Insaf Cards from Lahore.

Sehat Insaf Card having free medical cover up to Rs720,000 would facilitate around 40 million people (approximately eight million families) in Punjab.

To another query, he said India could not use the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as a political tool against Pakistan anymore.

On this occasion, Provincial Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal said Punjab government would follow prime minister’s instructions regarding Ehsaas Programme.

In this connection, he added, provincial government initiated schemes to provide employment and soft loans to varsities students.

Mian Aslam Iqbal said last PML-N government had plundered the national exchequer and ruined the country’s institutions. Contrary to this, he said, the PTI initiated reforms in all the institutions to ensure transparency and merit for better service delivery to the masses.  The present government, he maintained, narrowed down current account deficit up to US $6.5 billion, besides curtaining non-developmental expenditure to Rs45 billion through austerity drive.