Foremost priority of budget to relieve common man: Shaikh

KARACHI: Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue, and Economic Affairs Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said on Thursday the foremost priority of the budget is to provide relief to the common man.

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Speaking during a meeting with the business community in Karachi, Shaikh said the government has agreed on low-interest rates for the $6 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Shaikh said the economy of Pakistan was in tumult when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came into power last year.

The finance adviser said the country was facing a very harsh situation at that time, adding, “when this government took control, the total debt on the country was at Rs.31 trillion. In the past two years, foreign exchange reserves have come down from $18 billion to less than $10bn. The country’s trade deficit, the difference between exports and imports, was more than $20bn annually.”

Elaborating further on the $6bn IMF bailout, Shaikh said the World Bank and Asian Development Bank were also expected to provide an additional $2bn to $3bn besides the IMF package.

He said the agreement with the IMF included a few points that would be beneficial for the poorest section of the country’s population.

He said, “it has been decided that the low usage consumers would not be affected if electricity prices ever rise. We have set aside Rs216bn in the budget for this purpose.”

The finance adviser was joined by Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi, and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman Shabbar Zaidi, and others.

Ismail said in a press conference following the meeting, “on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, his entire economic and financial team arrived in Karachi today and met with the prominent businessmen and members of the representative bodies from the city.”

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