ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister stated that the government was committed to transparency and claimed that it will not try to influence the outcome of the ongoing audit inquiry of Rs480 billion circular debt payments.
Speaking at a seminar titled ‘Transparency in Public Sector: An Appraisal,’ organised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, he said that complete functional independence has been granted to Auditor General of Pakistan.
The minister also clarified criticism in media that after assuming charge in 2013 the government cleared Rs480 billion circular debt of power sector defying rules and regulation.
“You will agree that we did not discourage the former Auditor General who spent two years trying to prove that the payment was mala fide,” he said and added, “After his exit, some sections of the media tried to give the impression that the government would pressure the new Auditor General to suppress the audit of circular debt payment.”
He added, “But nothing of this kind has been done.”
He announced to ensure transparency in execution of $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He disputed the perception and asserted that CPEC would not increase the country’s debt burden.
“The debt burden will not go up as the major chunk of the investment will be made by the private sector,” the minister added.
At the same time, the minister acknowledged that Pakistan’s public debt increased to Rs3.80 trillion during PML-N rule which included Rs410bn foreign debt and Rs3.40tr domestic debt.
He added that public debt increased mainly because of fiscal deficit. He, however, claimed that from 8.8 per cent of GDP in 2013-14 the government intends to bring it down to 4.3pc of GDP by the end of the current fiscal year.
If the budget deficit would not have been cut down by half, the public debt might have touched Rs26tr by now,” he maintained.
He said that it was the policy of adhering to a policy of transparency that the government was able to meet international commitments.
“Regular and timely payments to IMF have improved the country’s image and improved our international credit rating.”
Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves had depleted when the government assumed power but they crossed $21bn mark this month.
Currently, he said, tax and energy reforms as well as strategic private sector participation are high on the government’s agenda.
In the domain of taxation, the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AML) will soon be amended to provide for tools for combating tax crimes.
He added that the public functionaries have to observe the procedure laid down in the PPRA Rules for every procurement, whatever its volume.
Now details of all procurements are available online.
Earlier, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervez Rashid, Arshad Mirza and Secretary Ministry of Pakistan Railways Perveez Qadir Agha and Younas Dagha also spoke.
Responding to a question on sharing benefits of windfall gain on account of reduced oil prices, he said that the arrears recovery increased by 4pc which had nothing to do with decreased oil prices.
He declined to respond to question on changing board of directors of all distribution companies (DISCOs).
He said that the affordable electricity would be ensured as Neelum-Jheleum hydropower. Tarbela-4 and other projects are in the pipeline which would help overcome around 8000MW deficit till 2017-18.
Courtesy : Dawn News