Account deficit increased economic problems: Ahsan

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Federal Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal said on Saturday that economic problems increased due to current account deficit, while inflation ratio had been on the rise during the last five years.

He expressed these views while addressing a ‘Roundtable Conference on Economy’ here at Lahore School of Economics (LSE). Dean Dr. Azam Amjad Chaudhry also spoke at the conference. The federal minister said that the current account deficit led to numerous economic problems, asserting that the previous government did not initiate any energy projects, though purchase of big vehicles continued. He mentioned that the energy crisis started in Pakistan after 2007.

He made it clear that prior to the present government, the Ministry of Finance had made an announcement that quarterly funds of budget were not being released.

Ahsan Iqbal recalled that despite sanctions on Pakistan due to nuclear tests, the then government had provided funds for developmental projects. Pakistan had been facing problems due to political instability and economic policies could not flourish because of frequent political changes in Pakistan.

He observed that every succeeding government blamed the previous government for its failure because projects were not completed in its five-year term. He said that a country could develop only with political stability for at least 10 years.

The minister said that Pakistan had Thar coal reserve, which was a bigger treasure than oil of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Thar coal could provide cheap energy, he said and added that Pakistan could also enhance its energy generation by optimum utilisation from other energy resources such as wind, hydel and solar.

Ahsan Iqbal said that privatisation in telecom sector led to economic growth in the country, adding, “We got a peace plan in the form of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), by which the country could increase its economic growth capacity. The structure of the economy is not very strong; however, CPEC attracted the world towards Pakistan like a magnet,” he said and cited that around 100 Chinese companies had opened offices in Islamabad.

He was of the view that Pakistan had dropped the economic growth catch due to 1965 war and no economic planning could be done properly with frequent changes of governments. Ahsan Iqbal said, “CPEC is not a catch for cricket but for football. CPEC is a game-changer, and we all must not missed this great opportunity. China always stood with Pakistan in difficult times.”

The previous leadership had levelled baseless allegations of corruption in the projects of Chinese companies, and he was also accused of Rs 70 billion embezzlement in Multan-Sukkur Motorway project, he said and asserted that due to such baseless allegations, all companies closed their offices and went back and not a single dollar came to the country and the world’s trust in Pakistan had been lost during the last four years of previous government.

He remarked, “Pakistan’s push-start economy will have to be done by changing the engine battery. If import increases, emergency brake has to be applied. The push-start will not work for long, the battery of support will have to be invested in the economy.”

He added that if the government stood behind the exporter, the economy could improve, asserting that there was no businessman with US$500 million worth and Pakistan was no more a leader in the world market. The industry had not grown because the policy was changed every five years, and all the wealth of Pakistan was buried in real estate business.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the faults in the system had to be fixed for which harmony had to be created, therefore they had included all the political parties in the Vision 2025, but it was thrown out by the previous government. “When I was in Adiala Jail Rawalpindi, I thought that why the economic policy is not working. There I had a solution in mind that the reform agenda should be transferred to the private sector.

The government that comes will be able to force the policy to continue with a strong lobby,” said Ahsan Iqbal. He said that tax revenue had not increased rapidly, the economy was being strangled by imposing more taxes, suggesting, “We need to eliminate tax evasion and leakage to increase the tax net, instead of making tax payers suffer more.”