No sovereignty without economic stability, says Gen Bajwa


–Army chief says Pakistan going through difficult economic situation due to fiscal mismanagement 

–Says army understands govt’s difficult but quintessential decisions for long term economic benefits 


ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday stated that there cannot be any sovereignty in the absence of economic sovereignty and everyone needs to fulfill their responsibilities so that the initiatives taken by the government succeed.

The army chief was speaking at a national seminar titled ‘Pakistan’s Economy: Challenges and Way Forward’, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA) at National Defence University (NDU) in the federal capital.

The moot dilated on ways of overcoming budget deficit, low tax collection base, circular debt, loss-ridden public sector enterprises, fiscal indiscipline, undocumented economy, weak institutional capacity, low exports, meeting federal obligations within existing NFC arrangements and the perceptions surrounding the prevailing economic environment.

The country’s economic outlook has sharply deteriorated over the past year. Growth is expected to come in at 3.3 per cent this fiscal year, ending at the end of this month, compared with 5.2pc the previous year. It is forecast to ease to 2.4pc in the next financial year.

Inflation, at 9pc in May, is likely to rise to 11-13pc during fiscal year 2019-20, according to official forecasts. In its annual budget statement, the government said that it expected a fiscal deficit of 7.1pc this year, down from 7.2pc the previous year. The rupee has lost more than 50pc of its value since December 2017.

Addressing the moot, Gen Bajwa endorsed the undeniable link between security and economy, stating both directly complement each other.

He highlighted Pakistan’s efforts for restoring regional peace that will lead to better trade connectivity and reiterated the importance of regional security.

“Countries cannot develop individually, it is the region which develops. For our region to develop we need to have greater regional connectivity among all neighbours,” he stated.

Talking about the current economic situation, Gen Bajwa stated that the country is “going through difficult economic situation due to fiscal mismanagement”.

“The armed forces played their part by voluntarily foregoing annual increase in defence budget and this is not the only step we are taking for the improvement of economy. We understand that the government has gone for difficult but quintessential decisions for long term benefits and what we are doing is playing our part. We all need to fulfill our responsibilities in this regard so that these difficult initiatives succeed,” he added.

Panel of speakers included Adviser to Chief Minister of Punjab on Economic Affairs and Planning Dr Salman Shah, Dean and Director IBA Dr Farrukh Iqbal, Executive Director Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Dr Abid Suleri, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Almas Haider and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in his keynote address, shed light on the reasons which resulted into increasing these challenges. He counted perpetual security threats, inconsistent economic policies, poor economic discipline and lack of will to take difficult decisions in the past as major contributors to the economic situation the government is facing today.

The seminar was attended by large number economy experts, think tanks and representatives of business community.