Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday said there was no rift within the government over the mini-budget, saying the passage of the Finance Supplementary Bill 2021 will revive the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi, the federal minister said that the finance bill will likely pass by Jan 20 and the subsequent release of a $1b tranche by the IMF will stabilise the economy and the Pakistani rupee.
Along with the IMF, the bill will also pave the way for the release of money from other global money lending institutions that would play a key role in the economic revival. “With the release of the IMF tranche, our immediate worries will be over,” the minister hoped.
In a comment on the autonomy of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Fawad said giving the SBP autonomy was part of the PTI’s manifesto. “We are not subletting the central bank to the IMF,” he said, adding that the board of governors of the SBP will be appointed by the government.
According to Fawad, the PTI government didn’t borrow even a single rupee from the SBP over the past three years unlike the PML-N government that had “asked [the] SBP to print trillions of rupees”.
“We believe in independent institutions and autonomy granted to the SBP will benefit Pakistan,” the minister added.
Speaking about inflation, he said that in the global market energy prices were showing a downward trend that would eventually translate into relief for the public. He further said that global food prices were also coming down, which would consequently ease inflation in Pakistan.
As per the minister, there was hyperinflation in Pakistan because of the hike in global prices. He said Pakistan had to import ghee, cooking oil and pulses because the agriculture sector was ignored by previous governments.
“However, [the] PTI has revived the sector over the past two years and we had five bumper crops this year,” he added. As a result of these bumper crops, farmers got Rs1,100 billion, the minister added.
He said that the Pakistani economy is on the mend and claimed that it would grow at a rate of five per cent during 2022. “We have revived the agri and industrial sectors,” he said, adding, “the economy is back on track [and] 2022 is the year of Pakistan’s prosperity.”
Talking about the economic growth, Fawad said 100 major companies of Pakistan, including that owned by PML-N leader Miftah Ismail, earned Rs929b in profits whereas the profits of media houses witnessed a 33 per cent increase.
He said that the private sector was not increasing the salaries of their workers despite record profits and urged them to give their employees a pay raise amid these times of inflation.
The information minister criticised the PML-N and PPP government for taking over Rs27 trillion in loans in 10 years. He said that the total debt of Pakistan rose from Rs6 trillion in 2008 to Rs27 trillion in 2018. According to Fawad, the PTI has returned $32 billion in loans and is expected to repay $55b.
About the return of Nawaz Sharif, the minister said Shehbaz Sharif who had given a guarantee for the return of his brother should be asked by the court to bring him back. If Shehbaz fails to do so then he should be jailed for not complying with terms of the affidavit, he added.
Health card in Punjab
Earlier in the day, Fawad said that the health cards facility has become fully available in the Lahore division and in the next 45 days families across Punjab would be eligible for treatment up to Rs1 million annually as well.
لاہور ڈویژن میں صحت کارڈ کی سہولت مکمل طور پر میسر ہو گئ ہے آئندہ 45 دنوں میں صوبہ پنجاب کے تمام خاندان صحت کارڈ کے ذریعے دس لاکھ تک سالانہ کے علاج کے اھل ہوں گے، اس انقلابی پروگرام سے لوگوں کی صحت کے اخراجات اب ان کے بجٹ کا حصہ نہیں رہے اور یہ خرچ مکمل طور پر حکومت اٹھاُرہی ہے
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) January 2, 2022
He said that with this “revolutionary programme” the health expense of the public would no longer come out of their budget, rather the government would take the responsibility. Fawad said that under this initiative every citizen would be eligible for the medical facility without any discrimination.
He said that the health card facility was being implemented across Pakistan, except Sindh. He urged the Sindh chief minister to initiate this facility in the province along with the ration card that provides a 30pc subsidy on flour and pulses.