PM vows to tackle economic challenges, protect vulnerable

Islamabad: Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said the government was going to take tough economic decisions to steer the country out of crisis assuring to protect downtrodden segments of the society. He said that the burden of these measures would primarily fall on the wealthy and elite, with safeguards in place to protect the interests of the poor and vulnerable.

Addressing the meeting of the Apex Committee of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) here, the prime minister said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had concluded the review for issuance of the last tranche of US$1.1 billion that hopefully be received by next month. After this, he said Pakistan also wanted to start another programme with the IMF for a period of three years during which the government will take strict measures to bring deep-rooted structural reforms in the country. With the reforms, he said “we will succeed to gradually break the begging bowl and come out of debt trap”.

The prime minister sought support of all political parties and the provincial governments to successfully implement the agenda of macro economic stability in the country. “For this we will have to work together. With the support of all the provinces, we will together resolve all the challenges and difficulties faced by the country”, he added. PM Shehbaz said the presence of chief ministers of all the provincial governments, Army Chief, and other concerned officials from across the country conveyed a clear message to the nation that all had gathered here for the cause of the country’s development, prosperity and integrity.

He said the SIFC was formed in June 2023 to remove bottlenecks in the investment process and since then nine meetings of the Apex Committee had been held besides more than 200 relevant meetings. Consequent to the meetings, he said a number of important decisions had been taken and implemented under the umbrella of the Council. The prime minister pointed out that when the PDM government took over the charge of the government in 2022, Pakistan was at the brink of bankruptcy but all the coalition partners decided to save the country from plunging into default by putting their politics at stake.

He said unfortunately a major chunk of the country’s resources drained down in shape of corruption. “This year’s target of tax collection if Rs 9 trillion but its potential was over Rs 1.3 trillion. Similarly, he said the cases of the taxes worth of Rs 2.7 trillion were pending either in the tribunals or courts that should have been resolved as soon as possible. The annual power theft is around Rs 400 billion in the country while the combined circular debt of electricity and gas was over Rs 5 trillion, the prime minister added. As regards the achievements of the interim government under SIFC, the prime minister informed that the caretaker setup, due to its measures against power theft, saved Rs 87 billion.

Similarly, strict measures were also taken to curb smuggling besides introducing reforms in the land information system. Besides, it also successfully concluded the privatization process of Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC). The prime minister highlighted that annually hundreds of billions of rupees were lost in the State Owned Enterprises as PIA alone owed debt wort of Rs 825 billion. Likewise, he said that the interim government also signed many important agreements with different countries to bring investment in the country including that with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) valuing $10 billion.