KARACHI: In a statistics-laden address to stock brokers on Wednesday, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal hailed the PML-N government for bringing about “visible improvement” in the economy.
Speaking at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) after a gong-ringing ceremony, Iqbal said the PML-N has stemmed the downward slide of the economy since assuming power in 2013.
“Pakistan looked like a poor African country in 2013. Electricity shutdowns would last up to 20 hours a day, people would torch powerhouses in protest, and a civil war-like situation prevailed in parts of Pakistan,” he said, adding that the country is now finally on the rise, thanks to better economic management.
Referring to the four Es of the manifesto of the PML-N extremism, energy, economy and education the federal minister highlighted progress in each of these areas in detail. Praising the military leadership for the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb, he said Pakistan was safer today than it was in 2013.
Speaking about economic achievements of the PML-N, Iqbal said nearly all major indicators showed the economy was gaining strength under the current government. Fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP is now 5% as opposed to 9% under the PPP government while the economic growth rate is at an eight-year high of 4.7%, he said.
Tax collections touched Rs3 trillion for the first time, although its target was not revised downwards in the middle of the fiscal year, a usual practice for the past many years, he added.
Iqbal also referred to the rise in foreign exchange reserves and the PSX benchmark index in his speech as evidence that the economy is now on a sound footing.
The ministry of education has been devolved to provinces after the 18th Amendment, but the federal government retains control over higher education. According to Iqbal, the PML-N government spent more than double (Rs215 billion) on higher education in 2013-16 compared to what the PPP government spent (Rs100 billion) in 2010-2013.
“We will build a university or a university campus in each district of the country within the next three years,” he said.
Blaming the Musharraf and PPP governments for the energy crisis, he said Pakistan had surplus energy when the PML-N was ousted from power in a military coup in 1999. Referring to long-term economic plan called Vision 2010 that he had developed in the late 1990s, Iqbal said it aimed at producing 28,000 MW by 2010 in view of the expected surge in electricity demand. “But the Musharraf government did away with Vision 2010, which resulted in severe energy shortages in the following years,” he said.
Iqbal said $35 billion out of the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is reserved for energy projects alone. As much as $2 billion and $3 billion have been set aside for new transmission lines and the improvement of distribution companies, respectively, he added.
“We will add 10,000 MW by 2018 and another 15,000 MW by 2025,” he added.
Courtesy : Express Tribune