PM rues being ‘economically enslaved’ by IMF

News Desk
Friday, Aug 05, 2022

By Our correspondent

PESHAWAR/DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif questioned on Thursday the kind of independence enjoyed by Pakistan when the nation is “economically enslaved” by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Geo News reported.

Pakistan’s political crisis, depleting foreign reserves, delay in the IMF’s loan disbursement and rupee devaluation have had a hard-hitting impact on the economy and the country is seeking financial assistance on an emergency basis.

“What have we done since our independence in the last 75 years when we are economically enslaved by the IMF?” he questioned while speaking to journalists during a visit to the flood-affected people in Peshawar.

The prime minister said that the coalition government would take decisions that would steer the country out of every crisis -- as they face uphill tasks on several fronts. Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF last month followed by months of deeply unpopular belt-tightening by the government, which took power in April, and has effectively eliminated fuel and power subsidies and introduced new measures to broaden the tax base.

The new government has slashed a raft of subsidies to meet the demands of global financial institutions, but risks the wrath of an electorate already struggling under the weight of double-digit inflation.

Following the staff-level agreement and the tough decisions, IMF’s Resident Representative for Pakistan Esther Perez Ruiz said earlier this week that the country has completed the last precondition -- increasing the PDL (petroleum development levy) -- for the combined seventh and eighth reviews.

An original $6 billion bailout package was signed by former prime minister Imran Khan in 2019, but repeatedly stalled when his government reneged on subsidy agreements and failed to significantly improve tax collection.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday vowed to put in all possible efforts for rehabilitation of the flood-affected people of Pakistan, letting no political differences or discrimination impede the process.

The prime minister, during his visit to the flood-ravaged area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s district here, said though the province was ruled by another party, it should make no difference.

“As another party rules in this province, we have no difference with it at this point of time. We all have to do it collectively. This is the matter of Pakistan, the matter of you, your rehabilitation, your house and your children. God willing, you will see there will be no politics or discrimination in it,” he assured in his interaction with the people displaced by flash floods.

He said that both the federal and provincial governments were working round the clock for relief of the affected population. The prime minister said that the federal government had announced Rs1 million compensation for the deceased and conveyed a message to chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to increase the compensation amount from present Rs0.8 million to 1 million to support the distressed families.

Moreover, the federal government would also provide Rs250,000 each for the injured and Rs0.5 million for fully damaged houses and Rs0.2 million each for partially-damaged structures.

Moreover, he said the NDMA and provincial authorities would carry out a joint survey to assess the damage to crops to enable the government to pay compensation transparently. The prime minister also mentioned his interaction with Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on the subject, who also assured all support to fulfil the collective responsibility of the rehabilitation of the displaced population.

PM Shehbaz said following the completion of his visits to the affected areas, he would chair a meeting within a couple of days to assess the damage and strategize the compensation process.

The prime minister assured the locals that the government would not delay the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure, including roads and bridges destroyed by the flash floods. The prime minister, who earlier visited the flood-affected areas of Tank district, appreciated the performance of the National Highway Authority chairman for rehabilitation of road infrastructure in Balochistan and other areas. He reiterated that the government would not sit idle until the last individual was rehabilitated and household reconstructed.

During the briefing by the authorities concerned, the prime minister was told that the flash floods had fully damaged 143 houses. A survey was in process to assess the extent of the loss to structures, crops and livestock.

It was told that no casualty was reported in the area due to flood except one due to electrocution. It was told that around 350 percent more rain was recorded this year and that everyone, including NDMA, PDMAs, Pakistan Army, FC and local administrations, were collectively engaged for the rehabilitation of the population.

Pakistan Democratic Movement chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb and senior government officers accompanied the prime minister, who also interacted with the flood-affected people and reiterated his assurance for their relief and rehabilitation.

JUIF chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday lauded the federal government for extending help to the flood-affected areas of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts. Speaking at a reception for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the JUIF chief said the federal government was very keen to extend relief and rebuild infrastructure in the flood-stricken areas of the two districts, which have long been awaiting some relief-oriented measures.

The visit was planned earlier but unfortunately it had to be postponed due to inclement weather, he added. Expressing gratitude to the prime minister for personally visiting the flood-affected areas of the two districts, Fazl, who is also the head of the PDM, said that the PTI government did not pay heed to the development of the area and people had to face several challenges.

He expressed the hope that the government would undertake some mega development initiatives as part of the journey of development, which had been initiated during the tenure of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The population of these areas, he said, was largely dependent on agriculture, but this sector was badly affected by the recent flash floods which destroyed standing crops, cattle and rendered people homeless.

He also appealed to the government to construct the Tank-Zam Dam to prevent Tank from floods in future and bring maximum land under cultivation, which would usher in socio-economic development in the area.

Opposition Leader in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Maulana Lutfur Rehman briefed the prime minister on the devastation of the flash floods in the district. He thanked them for extending maximum financial assistance to flood victims.

Meanwhile, the federal government has won the hearts and minds of the flood-affected people in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif personally visited the affected areas and met with local people.

During the PM’s visit to Tank, a senior citizen thanked the prime minister for sympathising with them. While communicating his emotions, the senior citizen fell into tears and said in his native language that “it is for the first time during his 60 years life that any PM was visiting his area”. The prime minister hugged that elderly man and assured him of full support and cooperation of the federal government during this time of distress.

Another citizen, while talking to APP, said different institutions including FC, Pak Army, Police, Rescue 1122 provided relief work to the locals. Besides, food items were also distributed among the victims during this testing period, he said.

The local people said the road infrastructure has been badly damaged due to recent flood and rains. They, however, thanked the prime minister for announcing immediate repair and maintenance work of the infrastructure.