People of Pakistan are axis of budget: Shaikh

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Sunday said the people of Pakistan are axis of the budget 2019-20 which was approved in a good manner.

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Speaking in a press conference with the economic team here at the federal capital, the Adviser announced the extension of asset declaration scheme deadline till July 3, and said, “we are giving people a final opportunity [to take advantage of the scheme] in case some people are still in the process or are facing difficulties wrapping it up,” adding that there has been a lot of interest in the scheme.

While detailing the government’s budget strategy, Shaikh said it was part of its agenda to “make all things transparent. To utter nothing but the truth in front of the public. That is precisely what is reflected in this budget.”

He indicated five key elements of the budget that are part of the government’s strategy to tackle the crisis:

  1. Managing the external front
  2. Strict austerity
  3. Helping the poor
  4. Helping industrialists
  5. Mobilising revenues

He added, “at the heart of the budget are the people of Pakistan, because a government’s success can only be assessed on the basis of how good it is for the people.”

Hafeez stressed, “and if harsher than harsh measures need to be taken, we shouldn’t shy away from them.”

Shaikh explained that due to the current account deficit and foreign loans, the external front was a matter of great concern, adding, “When the PTI was elected into government, it inherited an economic crisis that it is still trying to get out of.”

“We took immediate steps to curb external threats. We tried bringing down the Current Account Deficit. We imposed tariffs on imports and that too on luxury products & finished products; to squeeze imports. And that has continued in this budget.”

Shaikh acknowledged that the first step was to reduce the deficit. “Due to foreign loans and the import-export gap, the rupee devalued in comparison to the dollar.”

This was achieved by levying tariffs on imports ─ particularly luxury goods and finished products ─ to reduce the purchase of such products, Shaikh said, adding, “The current account deficit was $20 billion when this government came to power, but it has now gone down to $13.5bn.”

“The budget has suggested measures that will bring it down further to $7bn.”

“The government also managed to acquire $9.2bn in loans with friendly countries, including deferred payment facilities with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while the government is in talks with Qatar over similar arrangements.”

Shaikh said things are also on the right track with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “If everything stays on course, they will give us a $6bn package, and taking a cue from them, the Asian Development Bank has also committed some money. This will be disbursed during the year. We have similar hopes from the World Bank,” he added.

Shaikh asserted, “These were the steps we took to generate dollars.”

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