Opposition’s political gratification
The decisions taken by the unelected advisors without the approval of Federal Cabinet not only bring misnomer for the leadership of ruling PTI but provide lethal ammunition to opposition to target the Prime Minister Imran Khan. It gives credence to the point of view of ruling party ministers that elected political class of the party has no role in decision making. Former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqn Abassi, while talking to media along with Khwaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal, demanded the resignation of Prime Minister on account of what he called failure to run the country.
Referring to the impact of unwise and arbitrary fiscal measures of the government, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi made very appropriate comment that that raising the prices of petroleum products in one go by Rs.25 and levying additional taxes on them the current rate of galloping inflation will turn into a disastrous economic tsunami, hitting hard the common man. Before the unprecedented increase in the prices of petrol, diesel and other lubricants, former Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said in his speech in the ongoing budget session in the National Assembly that PTI government has fractured the economy beyond repair. It appears that finance managers of the government are not inclined to give their version on the decision of hiking petroleum products prices, while bypassing the federal cabinet. It was arbitrary so much so that even the well-established practice of asking for the summary of OGRA was also ignored.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on petroleum Nadeem Babar put up a very bad show in his press conference and appeared to be short of rationale to justify the unwise fiscal measure that has undone the monetary incentive of policy rate reduction by 625 basis points during the past three months, lowering interest rate to 7 percent to revive the economy, which is under the grip of acute recession and stagflation. Command over rocket science is not required to understand the simple rule of public finance that monetary incentives need to be supplemented by appropriate fiscal measures.
The excuse is not plausible that low POL prices did not benefit common rather it lured private oil marketing companies to hoarding of these products. Likewise this argument is not valid that the jacked up price of petrol and other petroleum products is still low by Rs.38 as compared with India, Bangladesh and other countries of the region. People will not buy the theory of imaginary comparison. Pakistan’s economy is still reeling under the recessionary cycle, whereas Bangladesh’s economy is booming with sustained economic growth of 8 percent, but virtue of complementarity of economic environment friendly fiscal and monetary policies. Similarly, this argument of petroleum advisor is not convincing which attributes the necessary evil of upward revision of POL prices to high cost of refining of crude oil in the outmoded oil refineries. Who is responsible for neglecting the upgradation of rag-tag oil refineries? Is not the mandated job of petroleum division? Who was responsible for torpedoing the hectic efforts of previous PTI Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government for setting up latest technology using oil refinery near the oil fields of southern districts of the province? Is the bureaucracy of petroleum division not accountable for putting on the backburner the modernisation of existing oil refineries and setting up new ones to expand onshore storage facilities? Now people will understand as to why the outstanding economists like Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan and Dr. Shakeeb Sherani quit the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister in 2018.
It is really a ray of hope that elected leaders of the ruling party like the Minister for Science and TechnologyChaudhry Fawd Hussain who said in a tweet that increase of Rs.25 in petroleum products cannot be defended, while the original PTI cadre minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan described the decision incorrect as mini-budget has preceded the approval of regular annual budget by the parliament.
The opposition political parties are happy over the mistakes, which are being committed by the PTI government. However, they are merely lambasting the government and had done no homework to unveil an alternative economic programme. As a matter of fact the present government has added to the mess piled up by governments when opposition parties were in power.