ข่าวเด่น

@Minister in tight spot (25/09/2560)

25 Sep 2017
51 times

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court last week raided the house of the finance minister Ishaq Dar to arrest him after he failed to appear before it in connection with a case about massing wealth beyond his resources. The court had issued bailable arrest warrant for the finance minister Dar is staying put in London along with the deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and he is unlikely to return unless he gets bail before arrest. Even if he gets bail and returns to the country, he may not be able to concentrate on his job as the NAB, on the instructions of the Supreme Court, has now appealed the Lahore Court orders shelving the infamous Huddaibiya Papers case in which he is the key witness. He had testified to the investigations during the Musharraf regime that the money was laundered on behalf of Sharif to a family in London. Dar has said that the statement was extracted from him under duress. In view of the growing predicament of Dar, who is related to the ousted prime minister, the opposition has stepped up calls for him to step down. Several members of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance including its chairman Saleem Mandviwala called on Dar to resign as the reports of the raid on his house would send a wrong message about Pakistan outside the world, as well as to the country’s financial sector. The reports triggered speculations that Dar is mulling to tender his resignation and even media ran stories that deliberations are underway to find his alternative; though Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi tried to sidestep the question on this subject during his media encounter in New York. “No reshuffle in the cabinet is on the cards,” Abbasi said to a questioner. However, experts say the government should remove uncertainty involving the finance minister and settle this issue as quickly as possible. “It is not in the own interest of Mr Dar to continue as finance minister,” senior economist Shahid Hasan Siddiqui said. “The economy is already in serious crisis and it could not afford that this controversy persists.” Dr Ashfaq Hasan Khan, the former economic advisor and long time critique of the economic policies of the finance minister, said Dar, who has been mired in many controversies even in his last stint in the office, to start, should not have accepted the job four years ago. “We are not affiliated with any political party and from day one we have been saying that the government’s economic policies would lead Pakistan to disaster and our stance has been vindicated.” He was also highly critical of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which carried out quarterly reviews of the country’s economy under the $6.6 billion bailout package that expired last year on the basis of “fake data” provided by the government. He wondered at the IMF for praising the government of Pakistan during the first three years of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) package. The IMF showered the government with all out praise for its economic policies, despite strong reservations expressed by the independent economic experts. However, now, the international lender is issuing critical statements on the economy of the country. “These (are) all politically motivated statements.” The economic experts, however, said the replacement of Dar with a new finance minister would not mitigate the economic woes of the country until the government overhauls its economic strategy. He said the economic situation is a serious challenge for the prime minister himself. “The prime minister should say frankly that enough is enough and express his resolve to fix the economy and bring up a devoted economic team of Pakistanis at the finance ministry, State Bank and Planning Commission to achieve this objective,” Dr Khan added. The finance minister has long been claiming to have turned around the economy which was on the brink of a collapse when he assumed office in 2013. He has been taking credit of achieving high growth rate to over five percent which was below three percent in 2013 as well as building up the foreign exchange reserves to over 20 billion dollars which were below 800 million dollars four years ago. However, those achievements seem to be now falling apart because of fast depleting foreign exchange reserves, spiralling circular debt, declining exports and remittances as well as fast growing circular debt. Mr Dar’s emphasis throughout his tenure has been on juggling with economic data, but no serious effort was made to fix the real problems afflicting Pakistan’s economy for decades. After coming into power, the present government paid the entire circular debt in one go but failed to take necessary steps to stop its recurrence. The government is expected to leave circular debt much more than 480 billion rupees it inherited as it failed to introduce the much-needed reforms in the creeping energy sector of the country. Similarly, there have been growing calls for the government to bring the powerful and influential segments, like big landlords, into the tax net, but it conveniently ignored the demands for political reasons. Inflexible exchange rate is one of the many reasons for the low exports of the country. The government has avoided devaluing the rupee against dollar due to the fear of high inflation that could trigger a public backlash, but this policy has badly hit the exports of the country. A new finance minister could also make a difference if he is given a free hand to handle the economic issues of the country purely on professional basis and without any interference from any other quarter. “There are no quick fixes. It would take at least two to three years to stabilise the economy,” Ashfaque Hasan Khan said. After assuming office, the current Prime Minister Abbasi had vowed to work tirelessly to address the problems of the country as much as he could in the limited time available to him. On the foreign policy front, he has brought about a pleasant change. Abbasi as well as foreign minister Khawaja Asif are putting in commendable efforts to project Pakistan’s case at the international forums, as happened at the UN General Assembly in New York. The government has reached out to important regional and influential countries of the world to mobilise support for the position on Kashmir and the war on terror. One hopes that the prime minister shows same vigour in fixing the long-running economic woes of the country. The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad Source: The International THE NEWS (25/09/2017)

Rate this item
(0 votes)