Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Sunday reiterated that Pakistan cannot afford to give any petroleum subsidies for consumers in future, stressing the conditions set forth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revive a suspended loan facility also prevented it.
During an interview on private broadcaster Geo News, he said that the government would not impose additional taxes and levies on petroleum products in light of declining global prices and the Pakistani rupee’s improvement against the U.S. dollar. However, he stressed, the country could not afford to sustain any further losses by providing subsidies.
On the revival of the IMF’s stalled Extended Fund Facility for Pakistan, he confirmed that the global lender had set a condition for Islamabad to secure $4 billion in additional funding, adding that this had been obtained from some friendly countries. “We will sign the letter of intent and send it to the IMF by tomorrow [Monday],” he said.
To another question about charting a path forward, the finance minister said all political parties should sit together and hold talks related to the “charter of economy” already proposed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Addressing the recent controversy over the imposition of fixed tax on traders—which the government has withdrawn—Ismail said he had “made a mistake to slap Rs. 3,000 tax on small shops.” He said the problem had been compounded by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) imposing Rs. 6,000 taxes instead of Rs. 3,000, adding this was causing shops to refuse to pay their utility bills in protest. To prevent this, he said, the government had withdrawn the fixed tax and would rework the program before reviving it.
On Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s repeated praise for India’s economy in comparison to Pakistan, the finance minister said neighboring state had been building institutions since the 1950s while people in Pakistan were busy infighting. “We have fake factories here to manufacture professors, we hardly paid attention to the country’s education sector or its burgeoning population, yet [PTI] is here to raise the slogans of true freedom,” he said. “The same party has left behind a deficit of $48 billion,” he added.
He regretted that Pakistan had many prevailing issues, including its record of ensuring rights for minorities. He specifically noted murders of Christians and Ahmedis, noting barely anyone had raised their voices to condemn the crimes. “People are scared to offer their condemnations,” he said.
On population planning, similarly, he said that every time someone brought up the issue, they were accused of “endangering Islam.”