Lahore: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan outlined his party’s plans to address the country’s economic challenges during a webinar titled “From Crisis to Catastrophe: Budget 2023-24 and Plight of Common Pakistan Amidst Economic Tailspin.” Khan expressed his intention to create a federal ministry dedicated to boosting dollar income and establishing a separate set-up to explore avenues for generating foreign currency. These measures aim to address perennial economic issues that have plagued the nation.
Khan emphasized that the current crisis presents an opportunity for implementing crucial economic and governance reforms. He attributed the limited progress made during PTI’s first tenure to the challenges posed by a difficult coalition, which hindered both economic and governance reforms. However, with an improved majority in the current term, the party intends to attract dollar investments from non-resident Pakistanis to tackle the income deficit. Additionally, short-term measures will be taken to streamline the bloated governance structure, while mid-term solutions will focus on promoting investment and business.
The PTI’s agenda extends beyond short-term fixes and election-oriented planning. Long-term measures are being devised to restore the economy, including agricultural reforms, dam construction, and climate crisis management. Khan assured party members, including Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Shaukat Tareen, Sania Nishtar, Hammad Azhar, and Hamayun Akhtar Khan, that these critical issues are under consideration, and strategies are being developed accordingly.
PTI’s Vision for Sustainable Economic Growth
During the webinar moderated by Muzzammil Aslam, Shaukat Tareen, former finance minister, elaborated on the PTI’s plans to achieve sustainable economic growth. The party aims to achieve a 6-8% GDP growth rate for the next decade, with 4-5% growth in the agriculture sector and 10% industrial expansion annually. Over the same period, the tax-to-GDP ratio will be increased from 9% to 20%, and the savings rate will rise from 14% to 30%.
To shift away from a loan-dependent economy, the PTI intends to prioritize trade-driven growth. Their plans include the establishment of a National Assets Management organization, Debt Sustainability Analysis, debt re-profiling, and engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Despite the legal and political challenges facing the party, Shaukat Tareen appeared confident in the PTI’s ability to execute these plans.
Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed concerns that the current budget would undergo renegotiation at least twice this year, first by the caretaker government and then by the incoming administration. The inability to meet unrealistic targets would compel both entities to seek IMF relief, further denting the nation’s credibility. Qureshi reminded participants that the government had pledged to prioritize the economy over politics when assuming power.
Former Finance Minister Hammad Azhar highlighted the detrimental effects of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on the country’s economy. He claimed that the PDM’s actions had resulted in $7 billion in export losses and an equivalent amount in pending payments owed to multinational companies. With foreign reserves standing at less than $4 billion, Azhar questioned how the government planned to fulfill these obligations. The finance bill’s figures were also deemed contradictory, raising concerns about the financing of the remaining expenditure after servicing debts.
The economy, believed to have contracted by 3-4% in the outgoing fiscal year, faces significant challenges such as high inflation, soaring unemployment, and a historic low in large-scale manufacturing. Critics argue that the finance bill lacks a clear strategy to sustain the outlined targets, leaving many questions unanswered.
The webinar, which lasted 150 minutes, featured speeches from esteemed individuals such as former State Bank of Pakistan. The webinar provided a platform for participants to engage in a constructive dialogue on Pakistan’s economic challenges and the PTI’s proposed solutions. It highlighted the complexities and interdependencies involved in revitalizing the economy and underscored the importance of collaboration between the government, private sector, and international stakeholders to achieve sustainable economic growth.