–Asad Umar says indecision over approaching IMF didn’t lead to stock market crash
–Khursheed Shah criticises Asad Umar’s for leaving the session, Opp stages walkout
–Foreign minister says Saudi bailout has no strings attached, Pakistan won’t send troops to Yemen
–Information minister says Pakistan is heading towards economic stability
ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday defended Pakistan’s move of approaching friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance, saying that government wants to avoid dependency on any single source.
During the National Assembly (NA) session, former speaker and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq had demanded that the government take the parliament into confidence over its recent talks with Saudi Arabia, China and the IMF.
Responding to this, the foreign minister said that it was not possible for the country to recover from its current fiscal crisis without securing a bailout.
“We had even said before the elections that we need a bailout,” he said.
He said that Pakistan faces a deficit of $35 billion and the rupee’s value has depreciated because of which Pakistan had sought foreign loans.
“The current account deficit was $25 billion when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government left in 2013,” he said, adding that in December 2017, when Miftah Ismail was the finance minister, the rupee was depreciating while the government’s expenditures were increasing.
Defending Pakistan’s move of approaching friendly countries and IMF for assistance, he said that they wanted to avoid being dependent on any one source and this is why friendly countries were approached for assistance.
“We went to Saudi Arabia and signed a deal under which Saudi Arabia would deposit $3 billion to the national exchequer for the period of one year while it will also provide oil worth $9 billion on deferred payment for a period of three years” the finance minister said, adding, “Naveed Qamar has stayed in the IMF programme and Ishaq Dar is not here but must also know that not all the money comes from the IMF.”
Moreover, the finance minister rejected the impression that the government’s indecision over approaching the IMF had led to the stock market crash. He told the House that KSE-100 benchmark index had nosedived by 15,000 points when the previous PML-N administration was in power whereas it only went down by 4,000 points during the two months of the incumbent government.
The finance minister asserted that the stock market started declining from its zenith of 53,000 points when the “current account deficit started growing rapidly”, something that reflected in the market’s performance itself.
Talking about the recent return of bulls in the market, the finance minister said that in the last 10-12 days, the stock market had gained 5,000 points.
FM Umar also told the House that the current trade deficit had risen from 4.2 per cent to 6.6 per cent and this rise had caused a loss of Rs1,000 billion. He also acknowledged that Pakistan’s highest trade deficit is with China and reiterated Beijing’s determination of working with Islamabad to resolve this. He said that a bilateral trade framework is being prepared to reduce the trade deficit with China.
Talking about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to China, he said that the government intends to take China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to the next phase for the establishment of special economic zones (SEZ). He said that joint ventures between Pakistani and Chinese companies in those SEZs would help Pakistan cut its overall trade deficit.
The finance minister also said that a coordinated plan is being drafted to ensure job opportunities for the youth of the country, adding that the SME sector would provide two million jobs to the youth of the next five years and this would be done by giving better access to the finances.
Following his speech, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, to whom he had referred to at various points, was to deliver his rebuttal when the finance minister left the house.
SHAH ACCUSES MINISTERS OF IGNORING PARLIAMENT:
At this point, PPP leader and former leader of the opposition Syed Khursheed Shah protested and said that the debate cannot go on in the absence of the finance minister. He also accused the federal ministers of ignoring the parliament.
“We did not come here just to listen to the finance minister’s lecture,” he said, adding,” If he had to leave after concluding his speech then what was the point of debating on this issue. He is ignoring an institution because of which he became the minister. Unfortunately, the parliament has become a debating society now.”
When the session resumed after a prayer break, the opposition staged a walkout from the parliament to protest against the absence of the finance minister.
“We will not have a debate on the country’s economy until the finance minister comes back,” Shah said.
INFO MINISTER SAYS OPPOSITION WALKED OUT TO AVOID DEBATE:
With the opposition benches empty, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry took the centre stage and criticised the opposition for walking out yet again.
He accused the opposition of deliberately walking out so as to “avoid” talking about the economy which, he said, they themselves “had ruined”.
Talking about PM Khan’s upcoming visit to China, he said that both countries are strategic partners and the visit would start a new chapter in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. He also said that the threat of a fiscal default had been averted after recent Saudi assistance.
He further said that Pakistan is heading towards economic stability and the investors are now confident of the government’s fiscal policies.
Later, while talking to the media outside the parliament, he said that PTI’s far-reaching corrective measures had restored the confidence of investors and the historic surge in the stock market was a manifestation of that.
He further said that despite inheriting a huge backlog of foreign loans taken by the previous governments, the incumbent government had been able to recover from economic crisis and financial crunch because of its better management of state affairs.
‘PAK WON’T SEND TROOPS TO YEMEN’:
Speaking earlier in the session, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that that the Saudi bailout package did not have any conditions attached to it. He rubbished the impression that Pakistan would be sending its troops to Yemen for Saudi Arabia’s support.
Talking about the economic problems plaguing the country, he called for evolving a charter of economy, based on national consensus, to take the country out of its existing crisis.
He said that the government would give due consideration of the proposals of the opposition and would take guidance from them in this regard.
Moreover, the foreign minister stated that the current government was not responsible for the country’s economic quagmires because the country’s debt had surged from $6 billion to $30 billion in the last 10 years and the repayment of this debt is not an easy task.