Opposition party’s leaders claim incumbent government has increased debt burden, overseen massive inflation during its tenure
The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) on Thursday reiterated its claims of Pakistan becoming “25 percent poorer” due to the “flawed” economic policies of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government, adding that both unemployment and inflation had spiked in the past three years.
During his address, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed that as many as five million people had become unemployed thus far during the PTI’s tenure in power. He went on allege that 20 million additional people had been pushed into poverty, while the economy had shrunk by “$19 billion.” Seeking to dismiss the PTI’s claims of its success being hampered by the coronavirus, he claimed that if you retroactively applied the pandemic’s impact on the PMLN’s government’s economic indicators, the common man’s income would still have risen by 25 percent.
“People have received the gift of inflation through a stolen election,” he said in a routine voicing of the opposition’s allegation that the 2018 general elections were rigged.
PMLN President Shahbaz Sharif, in his address, said the party would present an alternate budget in response to the PTI’s finance bill. Blaming the government’s “terrible performance,” he said it had become difficult for the average citizen to maintain a reasonable lifestyle due to rising unemployment. The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly also vowed to resist the government’s efforts to enact an ordinance aimed at gagging the press.
Claiming the PTI government was misleading the public, he said the State Bank of Pakistan had also contested the PTI’s estimated growth rate of 3.9 percent in the past fiscal. “The government’s statistics have already become a subject of debate. This ‘figure-fudging’ has come on top of the government’s dismal performance and major failures,” he added.
“Pakistan’s ability to service its debt has further weakened as it has increased to an all-time high of nearly nine times more than the tax collection,” said Miftah Ismail, who was the PMLN’s finance minister in 2018. Claiming that the debt-to-tax ratio was at its lowest level of 6.5 during the PMLN’s tenure, he alleged that the PTI had increased the country’s debt burden more in its first three years than any previous government’s full term.
“The PTI is adding Rs. 4.747 trillion debt per year and building nothing. Had the PMLN’s policies continued, the size of the national economy would have been $368 billion and the per capita income $1,775 at the end of the fiscal year 2020-21,” he claimed, noting that the size of the Pakistani economy was $313 billion at the end of the last tenure of PMLN. “Pakistan is poorer today by 25 percent due to the economic policies of the PTI,” he added.
The former finance minister claimed that after three years, Prime Minister Imran Khan had reduced the economy by $296 billion or 5.5 percent even as the country’s population had increased by 7.5 percent. “There is a direct reduction in the income and purchasing power of Pakistanis by 13 percent. This is the first time in our history that our GDP in dollars has reduced even after three years,” he said, adding that high demand and inflation had also failed to make any dent in the PTI’s tax collection. “The PTI has tripled inflation, increased food inflation more than five times than what it was during PMLN’s tenure, and substantially reduced economic growth,” he alleged.
Referring to PTI-issued figures, he said just going by them, real rupee GDP had been reduced on a per capita basis. “The fiscal deficits in the years under Imran Khan have been the highest ever in Pakistan’s history—9.1 percent and 8.1 percent—and this year we will again unfortunately incur a budget deficit of over 8 percent of GDP,” he said.
Former finance minister Ishaq Dar, currently in self-exile in London, called for a “serious review” of Pakistan’s economic policy to pull the country out of its current “mess.” Claiming the country’s future was dim if this were not done, he regretted that the PTI had not been willing to sit down and develop a Charter of Economy with the opposition.
Describing the PTI’s dharna during the PMLN’s tenure as “sponsored sit-ins,” he claimed the PMLN government had delivered and fulfilled all its promises, including ending loadshedding in the country by 2018. He also hailed the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorism, adding that the money for it was approved through a supplementary grant in 2015. Criticizing the economic policies of the incumbent government, Dar claimed it neither knew governance, nor competence.
Dr. Ayesha Pasha, former finance minister of Punjab, said that while the PTI government was hailing the sales of automobiles and motorcycles as proof of its economic success, in actuality these indicators were still lower than what the PMLN had left behind. “Tractors sales are down by 30.3 percent, cars by 35 percent and motorcycles by 10 percent in fiscal year 2021 compared with 2018,” she said.
Former planning minister Ahsan Iqbal claimed that the country’s perception had been damaged by statements of Prime Minister Imran Khan, reducing foreign investment. “Pakistan’s core problem is political instability,” he said, claiming that the opportunity to attract Chinese investment in special economic zones had been lost.
Former commerce minister Khurram Dastgir, meanwhile, compared the prices of edibles in 2018 and 2021, lamenting the inflation caused by the PTI’s “mismanagement.” Displaying a receipt, he said the cost of most daily essentials had climbed nearly 96 percent over the past three years.
The PMLN also released a brief to supplement its seminar. It claims that the number of unemployed people across Pakistan has risen to 8.5 million, with an unemployment rate of 15 percent. It said that real wages for unskilled workers had fallen by 18 percent over the last three years, and that federal and provincial public development spending in relation to GDP had been nearly halved to 2.5 percent of GDP. It also suggested that rampant inflation of essential commodities was linked to persistent increases to power and gas tariffs, and the largest budget deficits in Pakistan’s history.