Countless u-turns, opacity, hurting the economy: Sherry Rehman

Islamabad: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Parliamentary Leader in Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman Monday criticized the government’s lack of transparency and chronic indecision over its bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a statement, Rehman said: “Seven months of dithering and false promises later, we are now hearing that the government is after all, going for a bailout package. This unnecessary back and forth is hurting our already ailing economy. PTI ran its campaign promising that Pakistan will be self-sufficient under their leadership. However, all the economic steps they have taken so far have contradicted the core of their economic vision”.

She said: “The recent mini budget itself has become controversial as parliament has not voted on it. Questions are naturally being asked about this chaotic and patently undemocratic way of dysfunction. Is the voting being delayed to disguise facts not being disclosed? We are all Pakistanis and would have shared the burden but the open disregard for parliament is now a key hallmark of this government’s modus operandum. There is no precedence in democratic governments for such authoritarianism coupled with ineptitude. Both are costing the federation dearly”.

 “The countless u-turns have made it extremely difficult to wrap one’s head around what the government is trying to do with the economy. We are hearing different answers to a rather straightforward question, is the government going to accept a bailout package or not? Instead of giving a concise and clear-cut answer, the government has decided to stick to its unrealistic economic vision without a feasible plan. As a result, our macroeconomic situation continues to deteriorate. This government has borrowed an unprecedented amount of Rs. 3.77 trillion in a span of 7 months. We are now borrowing just to pay interest on loans taken. Our foreign reserve is at an all time low and is only surviving on loans taken at the last minute, of which the terms we still do not know to this day. They have not presented a solution to the circular debt that now stands at a staggering Rs 2 trillion, neither have they properly addressed the worsening budget deficit” the Senator continued.

The former Senate Opposition Leader added: “The complete lack of transparency on this very important matter is disturbing. The parliament still has no idea about the terms on which loans and deferred payments have been made from other countries. The government has not consulted the parliament regarding the terms of their negotiations with the IMF too, despite continuous requests. How much is the bailout package? How will we address the measures stipulated in the agreement? Are provincial budgets being slashed as a part of IMF’s preconditions? We do not know. These are basic fundamentals the parliament is entitled to hearing but when questions are asked, government Ministers act like their rights are under challenge. This is both arbitrary and dangerous for a parliamentary democracy and will lead to further polarisation in a climate already fraught with political division”.

“If at the end of the day, the government decides to accept a bailout package, what then was the purpose of the Prime Minister’s begging tour around the world which amassed Rs 15 billion in loans per day? Wasn’t it to avoid going to the IMF? The public reticence has caused uncertainty that our economy can no longer afford. Once and for all, the government needs to be clear about its economic course,” she said.