Sherry Rehman slams govt over record hike in public debt

ISLAMABAD: Senator Sherry Rehman, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, has slammed the federal government for failing to tackle Pakistan’s rising debt.

“It is alarming that Pakistan’s debt and liabilities have surged by Rs14.4 trillion in the last two years, up from Rs29.9 trillion in June 2018 to a whopping Rs44.3 trillion. Over the last two years, the PTI government has been taking an average of Rs20 billion worth of additional debt a day.  No government in the past 73 years has taken on additional debt of Rs 20 billion a day,” she noted.

Commenting on the galloping circular debt, which remains one of the biggest challenges in our power sector, the senator said Pakistan’s circular debt in the power sector, currently standing at Rs2,219 billion, is expected to swell up to Rs4,000 billion by 2025.

“Public debt is breaking all previous records, inflation is highest in the region, and circular debt remains one of the biggest challenges in the power sector. Where is our economy heading?” questioned the Senator. “The PTI government had previously vowed to reduce circular debt, but they have instead added an additional Rs1.72 trillion debt.”

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“The country is already facing severe gas shortages. This is expected to worsen in the coming months, especially during the winter season. Is there anything, any sector that this government can manage properly?”

Questioning the federal government’s celebrations of a decline in the Current Account Deficit (CAD), she remarked, “CAD improved mainly due to a historical dip in international oil prices amidst the Covid-19 crisis. During PPP’s time in power, crude oil price was $147/barrel, yet the situation was nowhere close to what it is now”.

Furthermore, the senator commented on how the incumbent government was “bowing down to the sugar, wheat, and business tycoons” and advised them to work towards providing economic relief to the poor and vulnerable people of Pakistan. “It is getting very difficult for the common man to survive during these testing times,” the senator added.

Highlighting the lack of parliamentary supervision in economic policies, the senator questioned, “Why is the PTI government not keeping the parliament in confidence when it comes to our economic policies? In any democratic system, the parliament and the Opposition have the right to scrutinize and question the government’s performance.”

Regarding the importance of revenue collection, the Rehman said, “Pakistan is one of the countries in the world with the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio. The federal government must take lessons from Sindh. The FBR’s annual tax directory of 2018 showed that Sindh contributed 45pc to the total revenue collection. It is important to point out that tax collection is the principle way of resource mobilisation for sovereign countries.”

The PPP leader concluded by saying “the federal government must come up with a tangible short- to long-term economic-sector reform programme to fix matters instead of constantly looking back. The Parliament must also be kept in confidence. We have every right to question the federal government’s negligence and continuous mismanagement in the economic sector.”

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