ISLAMABAD

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday claimed the ongoing political crisis has caused Rs300 billion worth of losses at the Karachi Stock Exchange.

Addressing a press conference held at the finance ministry, Dar argued that the current political crisis was an “attempt to destabilise the country”.

“Imran Khan knows very well that his demands for caretaker setup are unconstitutional; the prime minister cannot be removed according to his wishes” Dar stated.

The finance minister made it clear that Imran and the Azadi March would be dealt with politically, while Tahirul Qadri would be dealt administratively.  Rejecting the white paper of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on the economic performance of the country, the Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Wednesday termed the paper as ‘a pack of lies’ that comprises false news reports, and common hearsay.

The Finance Minister in a press conference has issued 17 pages Rejoinder to the PTI’s White Paper, terming it as ‘pack of lies’. He went down hard on the architectures of the PTI’s White Paper, as he said the paper relies on incorrect data and questionable assumptions. The paper is also very selective in use of data series and conveniently ignores up-to-date data currently available on the relevant Government websites, he added. 

The Finance Minister was flanked with his Cabinet colleagues including Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervaiz Rasheed, Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid, State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman, State Minister for Privatisation Commission Mohammad Zubair and MNA Marvi Memmon.

The economic wizard of the PML-N government has responded to almost all the allegations leveled by Imran Khan on the economy. Dar said his ministry had come up with two budgets in just 13 months and it has made sure the allocation of resources was in the favour of the poor as well as the youth.

 Rejecting the PTI’s claim that recent budget was pro-elite, the Finance Minister termed it as pro-poor budget by saying government has taken several initiatives from addressing poverty and vulnerability and for the social protection schemes. He added that government had enhanced the Benzair Income Support Programme to Rs 118 billion for the ongoing fiscal year 2014-15, which remained at Rs 40 billion in last five years. Cash grant has been further increased to Rs 1500 per month in 2014-15 from Rs 1000. The number of beneficiary families was 4.3 million in 2012-13 that would be increased to 5.3 million in 2014-15.

Talking about the GDP growth, Ishaq Dar said that it remained at 4.14 percent in the FY2014, which has been accepted by the IMF and World Bank. He added that IMF would issue its report on Pakistan’s economy on August 18-19 that would clear everything regarding country’s growth rate.

He admitted that inflation rate had been increased during FY2014 to 8.6 percent. However, he held the caretaker government responsible for it, as it did not fulfill the commitments made with world donors. The caretaker government had assured the donors to impose new taxes wroth of 0.7 percent of the GDP and increasing power tariff, but it did not. Therefore, the incumbent government had honored the commitments of interim government, which resulted in increase in inflation rate, he remarked.

The Finance Minister clarified that incumbent government did not give any tax exemptions during last fiscal year as accused the PTI in its white paper. However, he informed that government had planned to eliminate all tax exemptions granted so far in the country in next three years. The government had eliminated exemptions worth of Rs 103 billion in last budget 2014-15.

Clarifying further, Ishaq Dar said that PTI’s figures regarding Foreign Public Investment are false, as it stood at $4.6 billion in FY2014 as against $1.63 billion of FY2013. He admitted the current account deficit had swelled to $2.9 billion in FY2014 mainly due to importing machinery in the country. He vowed to bring down the debt to GDP to below 60 percent in next three years from 63.9 percent.

The Finance Minister also defended the auction of Eurobond at higher interest rate by saying, “The Euro Bond has great significance for Pakistan, as it not only introduced Pakistan back in the international capital market but also allowed access to cheaper foreign resources for building country’s reserves, which have paved the way for exchange rate stability and appreciation”.

He informed that circular debt has started declining, as it reduced to Rs 244 billion from Rs 296 billion mainly due to the improve power recoveries. He added that circular debt would further decrease due to the power recoveries, which stood at over Rs 500 billion. Ishaq Dar clarified that government had only increase the power tariff by 31.1 percent as against 78 percent claimed by PTI in its white paper. Lower and middle-income groups consuming up to 200 units per months were exempted from the tariff increase.

The Finance Minister made it clear that there is no truth in saying that the old Rental Power Plants (RRPs) are revived is disguise. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet considered the Summary on “Utilisation of the existing available generation capacity - short term IPPS” and approved in principle for formulation of a policy subject to the condition that the policy should not contravene Supreme Court judgment dated 30th March 2012 in RPPs case, he added.

Ishaq Dar has shown wonder on the unemployment figures presented by PTI in its white paper, as he informed that government had not released the aforesaid figures so far. He said that privatisation of United Bank Limited was conducted in transparent manners.

The Finance Minister also defended the appointment of Maryam Nawaz Sharif as Chairperson of Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, as he said it is in an honorary capacity, without any compensation. The PTI’s effort to discredit and malign the immensely successful Next Generation Spectrum Auction through their White Paper is no more than baseless propaganda, he added.

He informed all together Prime Minister has paid 15 visits abroad - 8 bilateral while others were to attend international/regional conferences and summits. Prime Minister has cut down drastically the number of people accompanying him on foreign trips. Consequently, only the most needed persons accompany him. 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is using the small 12-seater Gulf Stream aircraft. He said, “It is incorrect to state that Govt is violating the SC verdict. Pursuant to Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan’s order dated 12th June, 2013, Federal Government constituted Federal Commission for selection of Heads of Public Sector Organisations (FCHPSO) on 22nd July, 2013 in accordance with the aforesaid order of the apex court”.

He also clarified that 80 percent SEO and companies are being run on adhoc basis in one year, as he said, “Once again, this is not correct.  The fact is that most of the state-run enterprises have been revived after appointment on merit and in transparent manner and became productive as compared to previous performance”.