Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday said that the country’s economy has been continuously contracting for the last four years and lamented the country’s abysmal development record during the previous government of PTI.
Ahsan bemoaned that in the last four years, a large chunk of funding for the provinces weighed down the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), adding that 42 per cent of schemes were included in the programme due to which there was little to nothing left for the federal projects.
The federal minister expressed these views while briefing a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Planning presided over by Khalid Magsi.
He told the committee that his predecessors refrained from crafting substantial policies and indulged in adhocism. Painting a grim picture of the economy, he said the country could get rid of its economic woes if it managed to generate $100 billion in five years.
The minister said that there is a need to increase domestic exports from $30 billion to $100 billion in the next five years to cope with the external financial needs of the country.
He said the annual funding requirements for Pakistan’s development programme were over Rs1900 billion, however, the government could manage to set aside only Rs700 billion for the current financial year due to financial constraints in the ongoing fiscal year.
The minister said that the PML-N government gave Vision 2010 and then Vision 2025 during its tenure, but the previous government failed to approve the five-year plan.
He further said that the former government kept calling everyone thieves, and it angered China by accusing the friendly country of expensive projects. “We are now restoring China’s confidence, and the government is all set to hold the 11th meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Coordination Committee on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).”
Ahsan Iqbal added that the whole government was running on borrowing as the tax and non-tax revenues of the federal government would be Rs9000 billion this year, out of which Rs4000 billion would go to the provinces, and Rs4000 billion would be spent on repaying debts.
China has the grand Belt and Road Initiative plan and Pakistan has the advantage of its location, he said, adding that benefiting from this advantage, we can become a trade hub between a large region.
He said that China also has the advantage of getting an alternative corridor in CPEC. If even 5 per cent of China’s trade starts from Pakistan, it will be of great benefit to Pakistan.
Chinese companies have set up energy projects in IPPs mode, he said, adding that the concessional loans were given by China for infrastructure projects.
The minister said due to the high cost of labour in China, more than 80 million new employment opportunities were being created from which Pakistan could benefit.
Ahsan Iqbal said that during the Tehreek-i-Insaaf tenure, there were problems regarding visas for Chinese companies. He said that after the 18th amendment, 58% of the revenue under NFC goes to the provinces, and the continuation of economic development policies on a sustainable basis and political stability is necessary.
In the meeting, member committee Syed Mahmood Shah complained that in his constituency, not a single project was included in the PSDP 2022-23.