ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said some political opponents were trying to undermine the country’s economic take-off, fearing their own political demise.
“Our opponents know that if we are successful in implementing our development projects, then their politics is going to liquidate in 2018 by the grace of Allah,” he said while chairing the Cabinet meeting here at the PM House.
The federal cabinet expressed full confidence in the leadership of the prime minister. Sharif apprised them of the accusations being leveled against his family, urging them to focus on their work instead of replying to the allegations.
Federal Cabinet while reposing full confidence on the leadership of Prime Minister appreciated the Prime Minister’s decision to present himself and his family for accountability before the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Federal Cabinet further expressed its resolve that Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the people of Pakistan will not allow few regressive opportunists to sabotage the stride of Pakistan towards development and prosperity.
The Cabinet meeting took up the agenda focused on the Budget Strategy for the financial year 2016-17.
The Prime Minister, on the occasion, said that our economic policies should be welfare oriented, ensuring the benefits of economic progress are delivered to the common people.
He appreciated the fact that the overall economic progress achieved during the last three years of the government had set the stage for further progress and development of the country. He noted that the key economic indicators, which were at rock bottom three years ago, have improved remarkably and it will lead to allocating more resources for the welfare of the poor and promoting the development agenda of the government.
The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the strategy for increasing revenue collection and emphasized the taxation system should be further strengthened by widening the tax net.
The Prime Minister further said that the government has made efforts to lower the fiscal deficit to a reasonable level by inducting financial discipline in the public sector. He appreciated the contribution being made by expatriate Pakistanis by sending their remittances to Pakistan. He directed that steps should be taken to facilitate overseas Pakistanis to send remittances through banking channels. The Prime Minister also directed the Ministry of Commerce to gear up efforts to increase exports.
The Cabinet meeting took note that while benefits of mega projects in the pipeline will start unfolding from the next year, immediate measures are needed to encourage investment by the private sector.
The Prime Minister said that the current trend of GDP growth would continue to increase employment opportunities for the youth. He noted that with the CPEC projects commissioning in the next few years, there will be huge opportunities for the whole region to benefit.
He said that the Chinese Council has already approved US $ 4.5 billion for projects of Sukkur-Multan and Havelian-Thakot Motorways. He mentioned that from 1999-2013, successive governments have failed to invest in energy sector and this government has initiated a number of energy projects for power generation. The US$ 34 billion of energy projects under CPEC are investments and not loans, he added. He said that the government will successfully overcome the gas shortage within the tenure of this government.
The Prime Minister further said that all the international financial institutions have acknowledged the economic turnaround of Pakistan. He mentioned that efforts are being made by few political opponents to undermine the country’s economic take off, but the people of Pakistan will not allow them to succeed.
The Prime Minister emphasized that we must address the issues of agriculture and manufacturing sectors to boost growth and put in our efforts to further strengthen country’s economy.
The Prime Minister appreciated the performance of the Finance Minister and his team on achieving the goal of economic stability in the country and carrying forward the development agenda. The Prime Minister said that efforts have been made for keeping the inflation rate under control and observed that the average inflation during past three years has remained lowest. He expressed satisfaction that the expected large scale manufacturing at a growth rate of 4.35 % will be highest in the last eight years.
The Cabinet after detailed discussion gave approval to the budget strategy paper 2016-17.
Earlier the Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar and Secretary Finance Division Dr. Waqar Masood Khan gave a detailed presentation to the Cabinet members on the strategy being followed in formulation of proposals for the next budget. The Finance Minister, while briefing the Cabinet said that the government is concentrating on major policy initiatives that are aimed at consolidating economic stability gains achieved so far and spurring inclusive and sustainable growth, creation of job opportunities and reduction in poverty.
The Finance Minister briefed the Cabinet that when the PML(N) Government took the reins of the government, the economy was weak and fragile and the growth rate averaged around 3 % and inflation around 12 % during 2008-13. The circular debt of Rs 503 billion was crippling the power sector and economy. The fiscal deficit was hovering around 8.8% and there were predictions of default. However due to economic policies of the government, the economy is now performing well. Fiscal deficit has been on target for closing at 4.3% in the current fiscal year ending 30th June 2016.
He briefed the Cabinet on healthy improvements in the current account of balance of payment. The deficit in current account has been reduced from US $ 1.9 billion in Jul-Mar 2014-15 to US $ 1.6 billion in the same period of 2015-16. He informed that the FBR tax collection has increased during the last nine months by 19 % with a historic high tax collection figures of Rs. 2103 billion. He said that there has been a considerable increase in the number of taxpayers in the last three years.
He said that in the medium term our plan is to gradually grow GDP to around 7 % and contain inflation to single digit i.e. less than 6 %. He added that we intend to bring down fiscal deficit to below 4 % in the next financial year 2016-17.
The Finance Minister concluded that the GDP growth rate is projected to increase by 5 % this year against the target of 5.5 % mainly due to severe setback to the cotton crop. He informed that the projected growth rate will be highest in the last eight years.
He informed the Cabinet that this will be the fourth budget of the present government and with each year we carry forward our reform agenda with prudent fiscal policies that will bring development and prosperity for the people of Pakistan in the coming years. NNI