Islamabad: Federal Minister Senator Sherry Rehman, during her Budget Speech at the National Assembly, held the former government squarely responsible for Pakistan’s mounting debt and public accounts crisis.
She said “the Imran Khan government used every opportunity it could get to make promises that have cost the country an unprecedented crisis in public finances, depleted foreign reserves, fiscal imbalance, runaway inflation, plummeting rupee, and an economy that was perilously near default.
Instead of leveling with the country, the previous government ran a disastrous campaign of division instead of governance, which has left the country in shock from the dangerous lack of planning, transparency, or even a policy of prudent management. All they did was talk and run a non-stop political campaign for four years.
They announced a revolution in 100 days when they came into government and yet here we stand with an almost doubled debt of Rs 42,745 billion within 3.10 years of the PTI government, while it reached a total of Rs 24, 953 billion in the last 70 years. This is the heart of the matter.
They have tied us to the worst IMF agreement and then broke that agreement, leaving Pakistan doubly exposed to both the entire multilateral financial system, loss of sovereign credibility, and at home the crippling burden of spiraling prices in a landscape of extreme irresponsibility where no LNG was ordered nor plan made for the unfunded subsidies they doled out to gain political mileage for their gains at the expense of Pakistan.
Clearly, the conspiracy was against Pakistan, but it was done by the PTI regime.
“The previous government’s senseless and excessive spending, their vanity politics, culture wars, and growing division of the political spectrum reeks of a neo-fascist model which in the blind pursuit of their cult politics eventually empties a country’s coffers when taken to extremes.
Unfortunately, even after leaving the economy in tatters, they continue to stoke the fires of political instability in the country, which is extremely dangerous for Pakistan, especially now. It seems as if PTI’s goal is to lead the country into total chaos; how can this help the common person who will suffer the most from the stringent policies we have no choice but to employ? How can a party that claims to work for the country’s benefit continue to use unconstitutional ways to get its way?”
“When they came to power they said they would end corruption. Instead, Pakistan now ranks 140th in the Transparency International Corruption Index, from its previous place of 117th. Let us not forget the foreign gifts that Imran Khan bought at steep discounts only to sell them abroad. The CDA rules were changed so he could conveniently pay a 12 lakh only fine to get his otherwise illegally built Bani Gala home regularized. Such and more accounts of corruption are all in front of us. They made promises with the IMF, took loans, and spent money on unsustainable programs. Imran Khan now dares to say that the country is going towards default, which is laughable considering it was he who set the trap for the country to land in such a perilous pass. Their government entered into a solemn agreement with the IMF to reduce oil subsidies by Rs4 per month until raising prices by Rs30 per liter by June 2022 simply because it reneged on its commitments which led to the IMF bailout package being put on hold. This was a hard blow to market confidence and a mortal blow to the rupee value, which was already hit hard by a fast deteriorating current account.”
“The current government is having to take austerity measures and restart talks with the IMF for a bailout. The Budget FY 22-23 might be called the “IMF Budget,” but the choice is to let the country be and watch it reach complete bankruptcy like Sri Lanka is now facing or take difficult but necessary actions. The pressure on the common person is insurmountable, and I fully hold the previous government accountable for its terrible decisions and larger-than-life promises to gain political favor. However, the country needs to be stabilized, and someone needs to step up. We might find it difficult to get favor from people due to the measures we have to take, and such a task might affect our political standing; we could have watched from the sidelines as the opposition does right now, with promises of what could have been but the country would have continued down a slippery slope ending in a train wreck. However, this unity government had to put brakes on the crisis. This is a poisoned chalice that PTI has left for us, but as it has in the last two months, this government will take those difficult decisions; there will be hard times and harder times before we get to stabilization. In all of this we also need to talk about structural issues like water shortages, and climate crises, but for that, we need some level of public unity, policy cohesion, and politicians who want to protect Pakistan from future risks. Many of us lose sleep over the depredations Pakistan faces because we can’t say we don’t care about the price of potatoes and tomatoes.”
“For this budget to succeed, the focus should be on what is truly required to stay afloat amidst this looming crisis, i.e., political stability. PTI continues to disrespect the boundaries of democracy and our constitution.”
“PTI has left Pakistan tied to the severest IMF budget ever, preferring to let the country default while the alleged conspiracy against themselves. They knew they were finished four months before they were gone as their Interior Minister said. What they did for short political gains has left Pakistan deeply scarred. They threw our foreign policy into the fire, the economy was sacrificed, and the energy needs of the country were ignored so that we return to the dark ages of load shedding. The conspiracy was against Pakistan, by the PTI, and that has become clear.
But we have to stop the slide and make the hard decisions at our own cost. Pakistan comes first. Nothing else, or history will judge us very harshly.”