NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 24

Two years of misrule

July 25 marks two years of the victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the 2018 elections. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s critics accuse him of taking U-turns on election promises while his sympathizers still have hope despite facing the hardest times of their lives.

His critics term the poor economy his biggest blunder, especially after the onset of the pandemic. Prime Minister Imran Khan is taunted for reneging on his promise to fix Pakistan’s economy without taking foreign loans while his government has broken all previous records of borrowing. Data released by the government says at least another 10 million people are expected to slip below the poverty line as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. The existing figure is already 50 million to 60 million. According to the Economic Survey 2019-20, 1.4 million to 18.53 million people have lost jobs in the country.

Total debt and liabilities of the country rose by Rs2.597 trillion in the period from July 2019 to March 2020. The bulk of the increase came from government domestic debt, which rose by Rs1.746tr in the period. The remaining increase came from the government’s external debt which rose by Rs603 billion. The total public debt has risen to 84.4pc of GDP by March 2020. The budget deficit is expected to exceed the target of 7.5pc of GDP and may go to 9.4pc of GDP owing to disruption in economic activity and increasing expenditure on public health and social safety net programs lessening the impact of Covid-19. The crisis has caused a loss of Rs3tr to Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP), which was expected to increase by three per cent, but went down by -0.4pc. Prime Minister Imran Khan is also accused of silencing the opposition through the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

There is no doubt that the country’s economic outlook has sharply deteriorated over the past two years. Faced with a large fiscal deficit, higher inflation and lower GDP growth, the government unveiled an aggressive plan for revenue generation through newer taxes and increased tax rates. Subsidies have also been withdrawn. The foreign exchange rate has been linked to market dynamics because of which the rupee devalued significantly in the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Energy costs have also gone up.

Skyrocketing prices of essentials have maligned the image of the government among the public beyond repair. An overnight and massive hike in the prices of petroleum products recently annoyed even its staunch supporters. The PTI had promised to reduce prices after coming to power. Instead, prices of gas, electricity, foodstuffs and essentials have doubled, if not tripled in its first two years. The government has failed to stabilize prices, which fluctuate in hours and days instead of months and years. It has eroded the credibility of the government in the public. Their belief in the government’s ability to perform has shattered badly and they are convinced now they will continue to face crisis after crisis in the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Despite tall claims, the government failed to stabilize wheat and flour prices in the country. The Punjab government had to release wheat forthwith in the market because of its shortage and rising prices.

The government has taken some steps to stabilize prices but none has worked. In March, it announced freezing gas and electricity tariffs but failed to obtain desired results. Annual consumer inflation came down slightly after rising to the highest level in nine years in January this year. Admitting high rates of inflation, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his government would not increase gas and electricity tariffs anymore. He took the decision after hiking power prices four times in the first 11 months of his government. He has himself admitted his government’s disappointing performance on price control, especially after sugar and wheat flour crises hit the country in recent days. He accepted responsibility for hikes in sugar and flour prices in the country and blamed mafias for obstructing and creating trouble for his government.

The government has increased the power tariff to overburden people instead of reforming the power distribution system. Huge theft, line losses and corruption in the system mean increased tariff for people. The government has been in office for about two years now and it is enough time to take stock of the situation and fix problems. However, it continues to slam past rulers for their corruption and inefficiency and brag about “revolutionary” steps to resolve public issues. The statements, devoid of action, are mere hollow slogans, which do not impress the public anymore. People need prompt action and results. They desperately need price cuts, jobs and business opportunities. The government cannot blame the past governments for the recent hike in the prices of essentials. It may have taken some measures to reform the economy, but their positive results have not reached the common people.

Medicine rates have increased by at least 22pc on paper in his two years, but they cost much more than it. The government’s policies have only hurt the common people and more adjustments mean more trouble for them. Almost all industries and traders in the country are resisting taxation measures of the government.

It is a fact that Prime Minister Imran Khan had inherited an economy, which was on the verge of collapse but his attempts to revive it have only overburdened the common people. He had to receive massive loans to pay back interest on loans received by PPP and PML-N governments. The past governments failed to take timely decisions for political gains and the result was that almost all national institutions were making heavy losses when his government took power.

Despite the setbacks, people have still not lost hope from the government and believe it will improve its performance in coming days, because Prime Minister Imran Khan is not corrupt and is working diligently to improve the lives of the common people.