Information minister reiterates claims of having to take out fresh loans to repay loans taken by previous governments
Accusing the opposition of resorting to negative propaganda, Information Minister Shibli Faraz on Wednesday reiterated the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government’s claims of having to take out fresh loans to repay loans taken by previous governments.
Addressing media after a meeting between the ruling party and its allies in Parliament, he said the Rs. 11.3 trillion the PTI had added to the public debt in its first two years in power could be explained very “transparently.” Providing a breakdown to the press, he claimed that around Rs. 6 trillion of the new debt had been utilized on repaying old loans and the interest accrued on them. Of the remaining amount, Rs. 3 trillion was “lost” due to the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee under the PTI’s policies. And Rs. 1.2 trillion were spent on the impoverished due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around Rs. 500 billion, he added, was spent on running the government.
Reiterating that the opposition was trying to peddle propaganda about the PTI having taken on excessive loans during its tenure, he said this clarified how the funds were spent. Prior to coming to power, the PTI had repeatedly criticized the PPP and PMLN governments for “adding debt” to the public exchequer by taking out loans. Both had, much like the PTI, had to service debts taken on by previous regimes. Between 2013 and 2018, the PMLN government added Rs. 10.2 trillion to the public debt; the PTI has already surpassed this figure in less than half that time.
The information minister also claimed that the economy had now been stabilized due to the “effective policies” of the incumbent government. He said the benefits of improving economic indicators would soon reach the masses. Referring to inflation, which had soared to double digits in the past year of the government, he said it had once again been brought down to single digits.
Referring to the specific sectors that had improved, Faraz said remittances and exports had both increased in the past six months, while imports had decreased. Similarly, he claimed that the current account deficit had been brought to zero and had even posted a surplus for several months. This statement is not entirely factual. While it is true that the current account was in surplus for nearly seven months, it was once again in deficit last month—largely due to a boost in imports, not any decline as claimed by the minister.
Faraz said that in the past few months, the large scale manufacturing sector had witnessed a major growth, adding that the country’s foreign exchange reserves had also improved.
To a question on the upcoming Senate elections, the information minister emphasized that the government believes in conducting the polls in a transparent manner. He said guidance has already been sought from the Supreme Court on the legal aspects of open ballot, adding that a bill had also been prepared for legislation in Parliament and it would now been seen whether or not the opposition supported it.
To another question on the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement, Faraz said there appeared to be no consensus amongst the component parties, adding that they were all pursuing conflicting narratives and interests.