The Finance Ministry always says that things are getting better, but the figures in the annual State Bank report always signal otherwise. Here are the good things that happened: the above-target mobilisation from the Eurobond and the successful divesture of UBL shares. The report also said that the increase in electricity and gas tariffs was smaller. Though it does not take into account the false additional charges put on the electricity bills that have been a national pain for customers to get rid of. It also mentioned that inflation and food prices have been lowered by December. Yet this may have less to do with economic policy and more to do with the global fall in the prices of fuel. The issue of the Rs 235 billion circular debt is still not settled. The targeted GDP growth of 4.1 % was actual 3.4% (a typo error as indicated to IMF by our FM), agriculture 2.1% against target of 3.8% and services 4.3% against target of 4.6% and inflation 8% against target of 8.6%. Our foreign reserves may have improved, but this is only because of a new IMF programme. External inflows from other international financial institutions (IFIs) also began after a gap of almost three years hindering the depletion of reserves.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s closeness with the PM and his spinning of numbers has made everyone sceptical of anything that the Finance Ministry has to say. This report proves this point and so does the state of the economy. Additionally, the protests have not helped the economy. The container drama was a big blow to the transport sector as well as to food producers. Investment plans also suffered when already, setting up a business in Pakistan has a long time delay attached. There has been some manipulation by the Finance Ministry in its reporting of a fiscal deficit at 5.5% of GDP, being significantly lower than both the 2013-14 target of 6.5% as well as the overall trend in the past three years. The report says that a one-off grant of Rs157bn was treated as a statistical discrepancy, which reduced the overall deficit, a 1.5 percentage point reduction. The energy sector turns out to be the bane of our existence. It is behind the high fiscal deficits over the past three years, and is the biggest burden on the economy.