Fawad says ‘poor economy’ didn’t let govt provide relief to people


–Info minister blames PPP, PML-N govts for taking record loans, wrecking economy 


ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Friday admitted that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was unable to provide relief to people, especially the middle class, as he pinned the blame on “poor economy” that the government inherited from previous governments.

Speaking at an event in Islamabad, the minister said that out of total income of Rs5,647 billion, the government is paying Rs 2,000bn as interest on loans taken by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) during the past 10 years.

“Our total income is approximately Rs5.5 trillion, of which Rs2 trillion goes to debt servicing, Rs1.7 trillion towards our defence budget, and then for every 10 rupees, six go to the provinces,” said Fawad.

“How can we rectify the foundations of our economy when our expenses exceed the total income,” he said, adding when the federal government starts budgeting [for the year], it is already Rs632bn in the red.

He said the government failed to provide relief to the middle class — the class that [supposedly] voted PTI into power. He said in an attempt to shield the poor segments from inflation, the government couldn’t provide relief to the middle class as “taxes are levied on the salaried class, and gas and electricity rates have increased for them”.

Earlier in his speech, the information minister described Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ascension to the top office as a “miracle” and defended the PTI’s 126-day sit-in in 2014.

“Only a political infant would say that [our 126-day] sit-in had a negative influence on Pakistan’s politics. Someone who knows even a little bit about [political] movements’ history will know that that sit-in gave Pakistan’s middle class and youth an alternative message. That sit-in laid the foundation of Naya Pakistan.”

Criticising the opposition parties, he said the erstwhile PML-N government spent $3bn on 27-km the orange line train in Lahore, when an ML-1 double track [highway] could have been from Peshawar to Karachi with $6bn.

In addition, the budget slated for education and potable water was also spent on the orange train, he said, adding, “They get upset when I say this, but the way they spend money is exactly how thieves splash their cash following a successful heist.”

He went to accuse the former president and PPP co-chairman of embezzling Rs,700bn out of total Rs2,000 bn that were to be spent on development in Sindh.

Ruling out any sort of deal between the government and the opposition, he said there won’t be any deals for the corrupt people as the PTI government was taking concrete steps to eliminate the menace of corruption from the national institutions.

The minister cited a chicken thief and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif’s examples to point out how the system treats the rich and the poor differently. He said a [common] man stole hens was sentenced to jail whereas the one who “stole Rs1500bn was made the head of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)”.

On Thursday, Fawad said that Shehbaz should resign as the PAC chairman on moral grounds, as he accused the latter of shielding his corruption with the top post.

Chaudhry also discussed the ongoing crisis in the media industry, questioning where the money made in the past three years had been spent.

“Our journalists are being laid off despite our media earning between Rs38 to Rs 40bn in three years,” he said. “And when we ask them ‘where have you spent this money’ no one knows where it went. All the workers, be it public or private, haven’t been paid their medical allowances. Their problems haven’t been resolved. This is because all the money has been usurped by the upper class.”