Lawmakers address press conference to highlight successes of their respective ministries
Lawmakers of the incumbent government on Tuesday marked two years since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came into power by unveiling a progress report highlighting its achievements in both international and external matters.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz kicked off the press conference in Islamabad by reiterating Prime Minister Imran Khan’s campaign promise of establishing a welfare state in Pakistan. He said Khan wanted to serve the public, especially the downtrodden segments of society, and claimed that the politics of vested interests had been roundly rejected in the 2018 general elections.
Claiming that the past two years had been “difficult,” Faraz said now the “good days” had started in an echo of last year’s press conference in which the government had claimed that its first year was one of “stabilization” and the second would be one of “growth.” The information minister also hit out at the opposition as a matter of routine for this government, claiming they wanted to destabilize the economy and foster anarchy. He claimed the information ministry would confront and counter this challenge.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during his turn in the spotlight, reiterated his claim that Pakistan’s foreign policy had allowed the Kashmir dispute to become prominent on the global stage once more. He repeated that the U.S. Security Council had held discussions on the disputed region and also pointed to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s addresses at various international forums. He said India had wanted to isolate Pakistan but had failed to do so and had increasingly become isolated through its own actions.
Qureshi also discussed the Afghanistan peace process, crediting Khan with seeking a conflict-free solution. He claimed Pakistan’s role in the talks had resulted in it being seen as a partner a peace—a part of the solution and not the problem.
The information minister claimed the incumbent government has pursued economic diplomacy to boost the country’s economy, pointing specifically to Africa and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—which was launched by the previous government. He repeated that the second phase of CPEC would focus on industrialization in Pakistan, adding that enhancing agriculture productivity, poverty alleviation and human resource development were also important components. He concluded his briefing by crediting the prime minister for seeking debt relief for developing nations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adviser to the P.M. on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also launched his progress report by slamming the previous governments—who have now been out of power for two years—for the country’s persistent economic crisis. He said the PTI had managed to reduce the current account deficit from $20 billion $3 billion and returned loans valued at Rs. 5,000 billion. He did not discuss the loans of more than Rs. 11.6 trillion that the PTI has taken since coming into power.
Shaikh said the government had curtailed its expenditures by reducing the budgets of official residences and freezing the funds of the armed forces. He said the government had not borrowed any money from the State Bank of Pakistan during the last fiscal year.
The de facto finance minister said the government had allocated Rs. 1,240 billion to cope with the situation arising out of COVID-19, claiming the majority of this had gone to the disadvantaged and people who had lost jobs due to the pandemic. He said Rs. 250 billion had been disbursed thus far.
Shaikh said Pakistan’s economic performance had been hailed by international organizations such as the International Monetary Funds and Moody’s and noted that the government had not imposed any new taxes in this year’s budget to help people suffering from the economic fallout of COVID-19.
The adviser to the P.M. said exports had witnessed a growth of six percent in July, adding that cement exports alone had increased by 66 percent. He said there had also been a boost in domestic sales of cement, fertilizers, and vehicles. He also hailed the record remittances reported by the State Bank of Pakistan for last month, and claimed economic gains would be further consolidated in the days ahead.
Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar said that the government had ensured no supply chains were disrupted despite COVID-19, and credited the state for gradual and timely reopening of industries.
He said the government had provided an incentive package to the construction industry, which had seen a surge in the fortunes of the sector. He said this activity would increase further after the current monsoon spell was over.
Azhar also highlighted the government’s electric vehicle and mobile manufacturing policies, and said local production of two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles would start this year. Pakistan is also set to begin exporting smartphones, he added.
The minister said the incumbent government had taken difficult decisions to curb spending, including dismissing the employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills. He said this would save the country billions. He concluded his statement by hailing the country’s progress in meeting the action plan of the Financial Action Task Force.
Planning Minister Asad Umar said Pakistan was among the few countries that had successfully confronted COVID-19, reiterating that the situation here was better than its regional counterparts. He reiterated the claim that the government’s “consensus” decisions were responsible for this success, and hit out at the opposition for branding the government “incompetent.”
The press conference ended with a briefing by Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar, who reviewed the Ehsaas program and its various components. She said the program was the country’s largest social safety net, and vowed that it would be further expanded.
She said the government would launch a new program in the next 15 days under which the children of deserving families would be given scholarships.