The former prime minister does not see the IMF bailout as a solution to the country’s economic problems.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has blasted the coalition government minutes after the unveiling of the “mini-budget”, claiming he “foresees no change” in the country’s economic condition even if the incumbent administration were to fulfill the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Earlier, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar introduced the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2023 in both lower and upper houses of parliament, seeking to fulfill prerequisites for unlocking the $1.1 billion IMF loan tranche.
Imran Khan also lamented that the state of the economy since the fall of his government has been appalling. “In the PTI era, the probability of default was 5%, now we are on par with Sri Lanka and Pakistan is much closer to default.” The ousted prime minister – who was ousted from prime minister by a no-confidence motion in April – also predicted that meeting the Washington-based lender’s terms would not help Pakistan’s ailing economy.
When he reported on the increased prices of medicines and utilities – many of which have seen huge price increases recently – due to recent inflation, he lamented, “The mini-budget will simply increase the burden on the masses.” Khan said the mini budget would lead to an increase in gas and electricity costs and the current inflation was the highest the country had seen in 50 years.
“Industrial production increased,” the PTI chief added, “today it has become negative as the industries in Faisalabad have been closed.”
He also cracked down on PDM leaders such as Fazlur Rehman and Bilawal Bhutto, criticizing them for holding anti-inflation demonstrations during his reign just to stick to the current government’s increases. The ex-PM also claimed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) improved its performance during the PTI’s tenure.
“Before the PTI’s term in office, the NAB recovered 160 billion rupees, in our time they recovered 480 billion rupees. The current government, on the other hand, has received pardons worth 1,100 billion in corruption cases.”
On the country’s current economic situation, he said the rupee had fallen 90% against the dollar, while the gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income had also declined. “Our reserves have fallen below $3 billion, which threatens the security of the country,” Khan said, adding that the problem of the country’s economy cannot be solved by borrowing alone.
“The loans must also be returned.” Expressing dismay at the hopes associated with the IMF bailout, he said that the arrival of funding would only lead to more credit being accumulated. “Even if the IMF is accepted, Pakistan will be stuck in the quagmire.” In addition, Khan criticized the government for failing to present a “roadmap” on how to fix the country and Finance Minister Ishaque Dar for claiming he would lower the dollar.
“Instead, they’ve spent the last 30 years looting people,” he said.
Khan went on to claim that the only way out of the fiscal mess was to hold new elections to establish a public mandate and a government that the public trusts to make “difficult decisions.”
PTI dissident MNA Noor Alam Khan also expressed his reservations with the ‘mini-budget’ on the floor of the National Assembly, claiming that a hike in power tariff would be too much for the inflation-hit people.
“Medicines have become expensive,” he lamented. “Those that once cost Rs15 medicine will now cost Rs100.”
Taking issue with the matter of power hikes, he further urged the house to “stop giving free units of electricity”, adding that “1,300 units of free electricity are given to officials” of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) while poor people are forced to pay bills.
“WAPDA officers are being given huge salaries, cars, and numerous other benefits,” he said. “People are fed up with load-shedding while officers enjoy sitting in air-conditioned rooms.”
He also lambasted the coalition government for claiming it would pardon debts. “Why they did not forgive the debts of the flood victims?” he questioned, adding that it was a gross injustice that only slogans were reserved for the poor.
Furthermore, Noor called tax collectors “thieves” and declared: “If you tax people, you must give them some facilities as well.”
Demanding that institutions and their spending be reined in, the lawmaker said: “Smuggling is carried out through green channels. We must look into where the Afghanistan dollars going.”
For his part, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) MNA Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, while speaking on the floor of the house, criticized Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for traveling with protocol despite the PDM government’s cries for “simplicity.”
However, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf interrupted him and said: “You cannot make speeches here, only discuss the point of objection.”
When Chitrali defended his stance, the speaker repeated his assertion, leading the JI parliamentarian to say, “If I can’t make a speech, I will make a quorum point.”