CPI report and Akbar’s unceremonious exit is a charge sheet: Sherry Rehman

Islamabad: Parliamentary Leader of the PPP in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman took the government to task on the slippage of Pakistan on the Corruption Perception Index by 16 places in just one year.

Speaking on a call attention notice on the growing trade deficit,, she said this government ran its entire campaign and post election container narrative on a single-issue promise: to end corruption in Pakistan. Despite the media frenzy of ‘tabdeeli’, it has become obvious that even on its favourite beaten dead horse of an issue the government has not just failed disastrously but also exposed Pakistan and itself to a shameful verdict of its own burgeoning corruption by its own yardstick of Transparency International surveys . When we used to question some of the local findings of this organisation Imran Khan would cite it as a holy grail in bashing the opposition. His entire single point agenda in government has been corruption, to arrest and derail his entire opposition. Instead of clamping down on the real corruption taking flight in Pakistan with impunity PTI has put itself in an untenable corner where under its government Pakistan has been ranked 140 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of 2021. The report shows that corruption has increased in Pakistan in the last three years which is totally the opposite of the government’s deeply flawed and now totally delegitimised narrative. According to the yardstick of the TI which was embraced by PTI, in 2020 Pakistan stood at 124 but in 2021 our position worsened by 16 spots to 140. In 2017, Pakistan was at 117 in this index and since then we have fallen by 23 spots. If this is the transparent and anti-corruption government, where has Pakistan’s corruption profile reached in three years?” questioned the Senator.

Senator Sherry Rehman said accountability was the single point agenda of this government and they built an entire legitimacy narrative against the opposition on this agenda. However, after three years, the government’s anti-corruption narrative has collapsed. Those who called the opposition thieves and robbers have also seen the unceremonious exit of their accountability Tzar for failing to prove corruption against opponents. Instead they have drowned Pakistan in bills and dubious plea bargains and almost insurmountable debt. It is obvious now that the NAB and accountability narrative was misused by the government to target opposition parties while cronies of the government ran amock with the country’s assets and mismanagement. The collapse of their narrative by their own value-judgement tool , the CPI, is the last nail in the coffin of the government’s narrative of accountability and transparency.”

She questioned how will this government introduce an Economic Security Charter when they refuse to foster dialogue on any of the issues that are plaguing the country today? They continue to blindly blame corruption while it skyrockets to record-breaking levels under their own noses. They use arbitrary arrests to try and silence their critics with NAB and accountability as a stick to beat their rivals. Several of the country’s commodities are being run by mafias who ; whether it’s the wheat mafia, sugar mafia and urea mafia – prices are soaring due to their impunity and illicit activities and this Tabahi Sarkar has done nothing to improve the situation in the country.”

Calling attention to Pakistan’s trade deficit by saying, “The trade deficit of Pakistan has reached a massive $24.787 billion in the first six months of the financial year, while in December it grew by $4.139 billion, which accounted for a whopping 87% increase year-on-year Rehman said all macro economic indicators that were crashing were linked to the country’s huge trade gap, which is in turn linked to the collapse of the rupee against the dollar, not to mention Pakistan’s balance of payments . The importance of this issue cannot be overstated due to the domino effect it has caused within the country’s economy and has led to an unprecedented quantum of suffering for the people of the country.”

Senator Rehman continued on to say “The impact of a high trade deficit impacts destructive seismic all major macroeconomic indicators . A dangerously high trade deficit has led to the unprecedented devaluation of the Rupee which is currently pushing towards Rs200 for the dollar in informal currency exchanges and poses a serious threat to the state of the economy. This places inflationary pressure on Pakistanis as PKR devalues and costs of imports, production, agriculture, fuel etc. soars. There is a cyclical cause and effect spiral that only a competent government can reverse through the means of appropriate, inclusive and progressive economic policies.”

The Senator continued, “From July to December 2021, the trade deficit increased by 106% compared to the same period last year, this is due to this government’s skyrocketing imports that they try to hide from public scrutiny. The total import bill jumped 66% to a massive $40.65 billion in July-December from $24.45 billion last year. The imports of agricultural and petroleum products increased by 119% compared to December 2020, while for the July-December period the imports for food and oil increased by 73% from $8.67 billion last year to $14.97 billion. There is no denying that these are important commodities for the wellbeing of the people but for the last three and a half years, the government has been a selling false promise that the trade deficit will be under control.”

She said, “Why are we importing food when in the PPP government there was a surplus in food exports including wheat, rice and sugar. We had a trade surplus in terms of food of $285.6 million. The value of the rupee was stable as the USD was selling for less than Rs100 and our focus was on empowering the workers and industry to drive up exports and ensure the economy remained stable. There is a strong interplay between trade deficit, currency valuation and balance of payments that this government fails to understand nor do the individuals who made false promises of a thriving Pakistani economy even show up to Senate sessions to find an inclusive way forward. The country is in a critical economic situation – whether it’s the trade deficit or the unsurmountable inflation.”

She concluded by saying, “This government has failed on every single one its promises and has left the country and its people in serious perilous with long term consequences for sustainability and sovereignty . They refuse to discuss policies with parliamentarians and find solutions that will benefit the country, instead they continue their tirade of incompetency and threaten the country when they are faced with due scrutiny. Now it is high time to give the people credible answers for the state of this country’s economy. No one will listen to their narrative that the past is responsible for where we are today in a rising storm in public finances .”