LAHORE - Finance is the backbone of any country’s stability and it is Pakistani nation’s good luck that Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and his economic team headed by the brilliant Mr Ishaq Dar, the Federal Minister for Finance, is clear about its goals that aim at eradicating despondency and poverty.

This is the considered opinion of majority of Pakistani intellectuals and analysts who have carried out in-depth study of Nawaz administration’s economic vision. For sure, the policies being pursued perseveringly by Ishaq Dar owe their strength to the economic vision of Mian Nawaz Sharif.

It is now a widely known reality that the nations pursuing the path of progress and stability inspired by visionary leadership, have been successful in earning a position of honour and dignity in the comity of nations. Pakistan too is poised to become a proud nation as it has already embarked on this dignified journey with first practical steps having been taken in just two months’ time by Nawaz government quite calculatingly and in keeping with the restraints and priorities of the national economy.

Take, for example, the IMF deal. Ishaq Dar is on record having explained in one or two prominent TV channels’ programmes as to how much pressure was mounted by IMF bigwigs to adopt very harsh measures for making the country’s economy ‘stand on its feet’. But the strength and encouragement drawn from the substantial pubic mandate enabled Ishaq Dar and his leaders to resist tough conditionalities of IMF, including that of not bothering about the power sector circular debt. The IMF wanted the government to go for immediate tariff rationalization that meant colossal increase in the power supply tariff for consumers of all categories. Obviously these IMF preconditions were not suited exactly to the present environment prevailing inside Pakistan where the government of Mian Nawaz Sharif started with a heavy backlog of arrears and economic liabilities.

Nevertheless the government took the challenge without a minute’s delay and in the particular deal with IMF, it handled the situation with reason which means that Pakistan’s Finance Minister convinced the IMF’s economic experts with reason based on solid data as to what maximum Pakistan could achieve in the direction of economic growth without rejecting sound IMF plans for Pakistan’s financial viability, in the long run.

This could be rarely done in the past, even by democratically elected regimes and their shrewd finance wizards.

What is, however, more commendable is the government’s latest decision to allow customs duty rebate of 50 per cent on the import of hybrid cars in order to neutralize the ill effects of skyrocketing prices of ordinary vehicles’ fuel (petrol in particular with CNG prices also following the trail ). Some rumour-mongers even fabricated an email and circulated it widely to create a bad impression about the government’s good intentions. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has categorically declared the email totally false and frivolous especially the allegations contained in that email that some influential entrepreneurs closely connected with the government leaders were behind this move as “they had invested billions in this trade” (as per the critics). According to Dar, the former PPP regime had allowed rebate of 25 per cent on hybrid cars up to 1800 cc whereas the newly elected PML-N government announced 50 per cent rebate for hybrid cars from 1200 to 1800 cc and 25 % for hybrid cars from 1800 to 2500 cc. The Finance Minister is right that these cars have gained worldwide popularity as they provide substitute for expensive fuel besides being environment friendly. As regards the imaginary apprehensions expressed by some detractors vis-à-vis Pakistan’s local automobile industry, Ishaq Dar has vividly clarified that at present not more than 3100 or so hybrid cars were plying in the country and the projected figure of imports in the near future don’t appear to go beyond four to five thousand even if the foreign manufacturers start producing 1200 cc hyrid cars for which the Nawaz government announced 100 per cent duty rebate.

Additionally, the hybrid manufacturers didn’t produce more than 60,000 vehicles. “If we keep this manufacturing total in mind while drawing the future picture of our national automobile industry, I can assure you even if Pakistan’s entire auto industry’s production is stopped, even then those 60,000 cars can’t be sold. The projected consequences or negative fallout predicted by some analysts is totally wrong. What should we do to satisfy them? Rest assured in the next 10 months or so, everything will become crystal clear. The figures that are in circulation at present are all irrelevant”, asserted the Finance Minister.  

For the people of Pakistan, it is, of course, a source of encouragement to note that the government has started doing work in directions in full swing and with focus on all options. Even the badly stalemated project of Nandipur is now on its track and its completion and commissioning would add another 400 plus megawatts to the national grid. Already, following the payment of more than 70 to 80 per cent of the circular debt, around 1600 MWs have been added to the national power system in a brief period of 60 day. And authentic reports suggest increase in the electricity demand by varied consumers.

It is a decision-action combine that has been put at work with full speed by PM Mian Nawaz Sharif and his team. Even in the matter of MFN status for India, it has been decided at the government level not to take any hasty decision. As explained by Ishaq Dar, “Other things or issues need to be normalized before Pakistan considers giving MFN status to India. This move is not under immediate consideration of Government of Pakistan.” However, while giving this explanation, the Finance Minister said smuggling of gold from different places including India had also created a negative impact for which measures are being taken within the next few days. “Actually, India is the cause of all this problem of raise in dollar value as against Pak rupee, courtesy this gold smuggling from India that began with the imposition of two per cent duty on gold by New Delhi government that was further increased to eight per cent.”

It can be easily inferred from in-depth examination of Ishaq Dar’s elaboration of Nawaz government’s economic management plans that the government was all set to achieve the goal of economic turnaround and relief for the citizenry in the foreseeable future.