The reality versus pretension

  • Implementing IMF’s agenda while pretending not to do so

With an attentive ear turned towards the IMF while eyes focused on any possible sign of public unrest, Asad Umar continues to implement the conditionalities that are being dictated, not in one go but in cautious doses. Even as he indulged in heroics like taking no dictation on Thursday he admitted he was to hold another video conference with the Fund’s mission the next day.

The elections were won by Imran Khan on slogans like 10 million jobs and five million low cost houses for the poor. To win over a group of electables from the Seraiki belt, the carving out of a South Punjab province was added as an additional promise. The implementation of these projects requires trillions of rupees. Quick fixes like millions of dollars to be sent by expatriates on Imran’s appeal and similar amounts raised through repatriation of looted wealth having failed, now we are being told by Imran Khan that what needs to be done first is the creation of wealth. If businesses prosper, poverty will be alleviated. PTI’s finance minister has unfolded a reforms package which is being presented as the beginning of the journey to economic revival. It will help create an environment for savings, investment, industrialisation and economic growth. How long will it take to provide relief to the common man — a year, two years or a whole term — is anyone’s guess. According to Umar, the economy would see enduring stability on the completion of the PTI government’s tenure. So PTI must be given a second term in 2023 if the common man is to get relief.

For the present there is relief only for those who already have enough. These include big defaulters like the ones who have been bailed out by a 50pc waiver on the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) amounting to around Rs200 billion. And who is (or are) to be the beneficiary of a new clause in the mini budget to allow tax authorities to settle the undeclared foreign assets of tax evaders?

The common man will have to wait for the time being for trickle down from above as promised several times in the past, every time proving a hoax.