PM meeting with businessmen
Amid the continued bleeding of the stock market and volatility in the financial market in the shape of fast depreciation of rupee against the US dollar and other major currencies, the Prime Minister met a delegation of leading businessmen, representing all leading chambers of business and industry. The main purpose of the meeting was to get the input of business leaders to pull out the economy from the economic crisis that the incumbent government received in legacy from the previous two governments. The members of delegation of businessmen apprised him through their candid and objective point of view about the havoc that sky-high electricity tariff has played with industry and trade including the foreign trade. They demanded stability in electricity tariff. The Prime Minister assured holding of regular meetings with business community to get their valuable suggestions for the turnaround of the economy and expressed optimism that the country will come out of the prevailing economic crisis.
The economic meltdown is heading towards financial crisis after the placing the global donor agencies technocrats in the finance ministry and State Bank of Pakistan. Governor central bank RazBaqir instead of taking concrete measures to stabalise the exchange rate of rupee misguided the Prime Minister to hold meeting with pity money changers after which the US Dollar appreciated by more than five rupees and the exchange rate touched Rs.150 to a dollar in the interbank market whereas it was sold for Rs. 152 in the open market. It is not the job of the chief executive of the country to hold meeting with money changers and get his prestigious position damaged with its subsequent fallout.
The other technocrat, Hafeez Sheikh has outsourced the finance ministry to his business partner Ali Jamil at the crucial juncture of budget preparation for the next fiscal year. The advisor on finance was in charge of Privitisation Commission in the government of President Musharraf. It was he who had privitised the golden eggs laying hen of PTCL and negotiated the sale of its share to UAE Telecom Company Etisalat along with the transfer of management. The company still owes $ 800 million to Pakistan with slim chances of retrieval. Nadeem Babar is advisor on oil and gas. He had remained President of IPPs Association at a time when previous PML-N government doled out a payment of Rs. 480 billion to these private power producers. The inflated electricity tariff allowed to IPPs and the recurring liability of payment of 40 percent capacity charges to them are the major factors for lingering power sector crises in the shape of Rs.1.6 trillion circular debt, the menace which refuses to go away despite frequent doses of power tariff hikes and improvement in the recovery of electricity bills by power distribution companies. It is time that the Prime Minister puts his own house in order if he is keen to accommodate the input of business leaders in formulating a comprehensive policy for tackling the economic crisis.
The poor performance of the economic managers of the PTI led government has provided an opportunity to the opposition parties to bash the government on the issues of high price spiral. They decided in a meeting at the Aftar dinner of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to convene an all parties’ conference after Eid and launch protest inside and outside the parliament. The Central Amir of JUI (F) MaulanaFazluRehman has been assigned the task of convening the APC. He has threatened to march on Islamabad soon. But the leadership of the opposition parties did not give any solution how the prices of essential consumers’ goods can be brought down and tariffs of electricity and gas can be lowered. If the opposition parties opt for protest then the ensuing political instability will further damage the economy. There is dire need of cooperation between the government and opposition to agree on a roadmap for economy’s turnaround and addressing the issues confronting the people.