Economy in much better condition than in 2018: Hammad Azhar

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Hammad Azhar on Sunday said despite challenges, the economy of the country was in much better condition than it was back in 2018 when the incumbent government assumed the power.

Talking in live call session along with Prime Minister, Imran Khan, the federal minister said no doubt challenges were there but there was sea of difference between the Pakistan of 2018 and today’s Pakistan.

He said, in 2018, Pakistan was at the verge of default but today’s Pakistan, even after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, was moving ahead on the path of growth and progress in better manner and was much ahead of growth forecast.

He said in 2018, the economic indicators were in worse condition and couldn’t be shared with the public through media for their negative impact.

“Had we openly talked to people about these indicators it would have created crisis in currency market and stock market, ” he said and remarked that the country was virtually at the brink of default.

The foreign exchange reserves had almost finished and the existing around US $ 7 to US $ 8 billion, that were in State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), were reserves on the basis of short term loans, which had to be paid back in two to three months.

In this condition, the minister added, the government had to take some hard decisions and had to devalue currency and increase interest rate. Afterwards these decisions started giving results and the historic current account deficit, which the government inherited, turned into surplus after 17 years.

After that the world organizations, which had earlier downgraded the economy, started upgrading it one year after the incumbent government came into power.

He said amid the journey of economy recovery was successfully going on when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world and contracted economies by five to ten percent including in India, United Kingdom and other countries.

However, he said, Pakistan witnessed contraction of only 0.4 percent in economic growth due to prudent policies of the government which took right decision at right time to save both lives of people as well as their livelihoods.

“We moved forward with a proper strategy and did not follow the Western policy blindly and our economy suffered just 0.4 percent contraction and that too was covered very early, ” he added.

He said the government had introduced timely package during covid-19, waived off electricity bills to three million businesses, whereas 170 million families were provided immediate relief through EHSAS programme.

He said business were provided easy loans and a number of packages were announced which resulted in economic recovery and growth as is evident from the fact that SBP was now predicting double growth compared to earlier projections.

He said, despite COVID-19, the Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) was growing at

eight percent whereas automobile and cement witnessed historic sales. Urea fertilizer sales broke 10 years record whereas there were also record tractor sales.

In the meantime, he said, around 100 textile mills that were closed in PML tenures were revived whereas thousands of power looms which were closed in Faisalabad were also restored.