Will try our best not to let anti-people budget pass: Miftah Ismail
PML-N leader and former finance minister Miftah Ismail vowed on Wednesday that his party would “try our best not to let the [government’s] anti-people budget pass”.
He made the comment during a press conference in Islamabad in which he criticised the government for the increase in the Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI) based monthly inflation.
Ismail said the party believed incumbent Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin and other government officials should ask the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to change its programme, adding that the PML-N would “help them and tell them what steps to take”.
“This anti-people budget cannot [pass]. Is there any room left to kill poor people further? Is there more room for inflation? If not, come to your senses,” he urged.
He claimed Prime Minister Imran Khan had already “lost credibility and people were tired”, adding that some PTI parliamentarians had also developed differences with the premier due to his policies.
“We (opposition) do not have a majority but Imran Khan’s people will not vote for him either now because there is no strength left in his ticket.”
During the press conference, Ismail criticised the PTI government for “destroying the economy and bringing Pakistan to a dangerous turn”.
“The SPI for April increased 21 per cent year-on-year (YoY). Some PTI people made excuses and said it would be better in May. Now, figures for May show that [SPI] has increased 17pc YoY. It means inflation in April increased 21pc compared to last year and inflation in May increased 17pc compared to last year for those items that are used by poor people and middle classes.”
The PML-N leader said there was “no example” of the difficulties that Prime Minister Imran’s government had put the middle-class and poor people through.
“SPI food inflation has not gone below 10pc in any month during the last two years. From February 2021, SPI did not increase by less than 13pc in any week and since March, SPI did not increase by less than 15pc in any week. When 17pc YoY inflation is happening, what will happen to the poor?” he questioned.
The SPI is calculated based on the prices of 51 essential items used by people from the middle and poor class, he shared.
“The numbers released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) show that for the smallest consumer who uses less than 50 units of electricity, the price has increased by 65pc. For Pakistan as a whole, electricity bills for each Pakistani have risen by 21pc on average.”
Ismail said that according to his calculations, the price of electricity had increased by 40pc which had “no basis”.
Ismail said that while the government claimed incomes had also increased, the real inflation-adjusted incomes had decreased. Incomes of people in the prime minister’s cabinet had increased meanwhile, he said.
“Zulfi Bukari’s income has increased. He takes private jets of companies that the government has contracts with and flies to Dubai,” he added.
“The inflation in Pakistan today is because of Imran Khan’s power to increase inflation, raise the prices of gas, petrol and because of the minting of rupees,” he alleged.
The PML-N leader said that when his party left the government in 2018, interest rate was at 3.15pc which was increased to 6.15pc by the PTI government which, in turn, had “doubled our debt servicing”.
“An injection of Rs1.5 trillion was done only to protect hot money so Morgan Stanley (bank) could get more money,” he said, claiming that Prime Minister Imran had “not done accountability, only oppression and victimisation”.
If the prime minister wanted to pursue accountability, there were a lot of projects from the Rawalpindi Ring Road scam to the sugar commission’s inquiry report, he said.
Ismail said that the government claimed large-scale manufacturing in the country had grown a lot. “They say sales of cars have increased a lot from last year … 151,000 cars were sold in 10 months of this year. In 2018, when the PML-N was in power, 215,000 cars were sold in 10 months. So they’re still at 30pc less than us but they are [doing] better than last year.”
He also contended that the government’s claims of highest export in March were “incorrect”, adding that imports were also the highest in March.
Comparing the present government’s performance with the PML-N, he said that the PTI would “reach with great difficulty where we left exports in 2018 or Rs100-150 million above [that level]”.
Ismail said the debts and budget deficit in the PTI government’s tenure had “no precedent”.
“They have increased debt by Rs1.3tr. If after that, they have increased reserves by Rs200 billion then what [big thing] have they done?
“If for four years, every Pakistani gets electricity, gas, flour and sugar for free, it will not take as much money as the debt accrued by Imran Khan in three years. Half of the amount of debt [Pakistan] took in 70 years has been accrued by Imran Khan in three years. They have left loans taken by PML-N very far behind; Imran Khan has accrued 30pc more loans,” he claimed.
He “challenged” the prime minister to show even one road or the number of schools and hospitals built in Punjab as compared to the PML-N who he said had laid a network of motorways, brought the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Pakistan, generated 11,000 megawatt of energy and built schools and hospitals.
“Why has CPEC shut down now? Tell me what project of it has been started. Tell me, of the nine industrial zones approved by (then prime minister) Nawaz Sharif, why has not even one been built? What industrialisation has been done by Imran Khan? Why has ML-1 not been built?” he questioned.
“Exports are not increased through narrative,” he quipped.
The PML-N leader said that current expenditure had been increased by the PTI government while development expenditure, tax collection and “everything else” had decreased. In the PML-N’s five years in power, the budget deficit on average was 5.5pc to 5.7pc. In Imran Khan’s two years, it has been 8.6pc, he added.
Ismail said the PML-N feared that the budget deficit would cross 8pc this year as well, adding that after giving the provinces their shares from tax collected, the country would “only be able to do debt servicing”.
“Now we will have to defend ourselves by taking loans because of the point Imran Khan has brought Pakistan to.”
He claimed that 7.5 million people were living in poverty today while the PML-N had reduced the number by two million during its tenure.
“No matter how much we talk about the state of Madinah, we have left the poor people without any support and made them poorer,” he added.