ISLAMABAD - Rejecting the allegations of figure fudging in the economic statistics during their rule, the key members of the former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz-led economic team defended their policies, as required at the respective times and advised the government to look forward to come out of the current economic crisis. Former caretaker Finance Minister and Advisor to the then PM, Salman Shah and former Finance Secretary Tanveer Ali Agha appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Finance here on Wednesday and gave a briefing about the economic decisions they took during their tenure. Senator Ahmad Ali presided over the meeting.     Defending the economic policies, Salman Shah argued, "The budget deficit was projected as per the economic health of the country at the time of announcing federal budget for 2007-08, when the oil prices were at around $ 60 per barrel in the world market and the food crisis was not quite as bad as it is now. We did not play with the figures and the accusations are baseless." In reply to queries by the members of the committee, Shah said the then government decided to export wheat as it was suggested by the Ministry of Agriculture that the country was having sufficient surplus wheat. "If the export was not allowed then the farmers would have gotten lesser prices of wheat and they would have suffered," the former minister stated, quoting a MINFAL summary. Shah was of the view that the new government should concentrate on the future and not look back to help Pakistan out of the crisis. Responding to the questions of the members on the current situation, the sitting Finance Secretary, Farukh Qayyum warned that there was a dire need for 'tightening the belts' by making some extreme steps to keep the fiscal balance intact. His 'belt tightening' announcement was taken as an indication that the government was looking towards the oil prices to go up again. The Finance Secretary dispelled the impression that the government was charging heavy taxes on the petroleum products but explained that the government is giving Rs 22 per liter subsidy and it has so far spent around Rs 150 billion to mitigate the impact of oil prices on the people. Certain measures would be taken in the next budget to check increase of fiscal deficit and to bring it down to 6.5 per cent of GDP, he said. The Committee took strict notice of the depreciation of Pak rupee against greenback and directed Governor State Bank of Pakistan to intervene in the matter. It noted that due to the rupee's depreciation against the US dollar the country could face a serious economic turmoil. Highlighting the impact of rupee's fall against the dollar the Chairman said, "Depreciation of one Pak rupee against the US dollar enhances the borrowing of Rs. 40 billion to the country, while Pak rupee has depreciated by six rupee against the US dollar, thus causing a borrowing burden of Rs. 250 billion." Senator Anwar Bhinder stressed the need to boost agricultural products, which he said would help strengthen the country's economy. He also suggested bringing down the prices of fertilizers and other inputs to achieve this objective. Senator Professor Khurshid Ahmed called for holding of similar meetings in future and said that the committee's suggestions should be incorporated in preparation for the next budget. Senator Nisar A. Memon said that the super spike due to unprecedented hike in prices in international market could occur, which he added could also affect the domestic market. He called for adopting a strong strategy to meet such challenges. The meeting discussed the provision and price situation of petroleum products and edibles.