Next year and a half will be difficult for country’s economy: Hammad Azhar

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Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar on Thursday reiterated that the next year and a half will prove to be a difficult period for the country’s economy.

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, the revenue minister said: “We — the prime minister, Asad Umar sahab, and myself — have all been saying this. This is because the extent of the damage to the economy was such that time will be required in its recovery.”

“We are told a lot that we must not keep referring to past mistakes and instead only talk about our own [plan]. When we are still suffering the after-effects of old [economic] policies, then how can we not talk about the past?” he asked.

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“The policies we are drafting now are directly related to redressal of the harm done, the effects of which are still being felt. This is why we refer to the past time and again.”

Also Read : IMF and the economy

The minister also sought to set the record straight regarding the remarks issued by Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda regarding offshore oil drilling activity, which Vawda had claimed would change the fortunes of the country within a month.

“A ship is drilling at a distance of 250 kilometres off of Karachi’s coast. There is no doubt that if gas reserves are discovered there, experts are of the opinion that it [the site] will be included among the world’s top ten reserves.

“He [Vawda] only expressed hope; his style is such that he expressed it very firmly. The statement must be understood in the context it was given,” Azhar explained.

Earlier in the conference, Azhar also pulled apart statements given by PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz in criticism of the economic policies of the incumbent government.

“We have devalued the currency by 10.8pc. PML-N in the first eight months of their tenure had devalued it by 10.1pc and in the last seven months had devalued it by 17pc,” he said.

“So kindly refrain from concocting stories of devaluation and casting sand into people’s eyes,” the revenue minister said while addressing Hamza Shahbaz.

Take a look: Economy of fools

“Let me also go on to state for the record why we had to devalue the currency. When your foreign currency reserves in August are depleted to the extent that you can not meet your short term liabilities, you cannot afford to throw billions of dollars into the market to defend an over valued currency,” said the minister.

Azhar went on to say that “today the value of the rupee stands closer to its real value.”

“The false numbers quoted by him [Hamza] today, I believe, were so that he can basically draw attention away from his case, which he made no mention of at all,” said Azhar.

“No matter how much you scream and shout, we will not give you an NRO,” avowed the revenue minister.

“Looking at the media reports that are emerging which describe how the money was taken abroad and then brought back makes it abundantly clear that there is no discernible difference between the Omni Group case and the Hamza Shahbaz case.”

“Hamza Shahbaz sahab, no matter how much you cosy up to Maulana Fazlur Rehman sahab or to Asif Zardari, you will not get an NRO now. Everything stands exposed before the nation.

“So it would be better if you redirect your focus to the serious charges levelled in the case against you.”

Further digging into the figures misquoted by the PML-N leader, Azhar said that Hamza had spoken of the stock market plummeting but had “failed to mention that in the last year of their tenure, from May 2017-18, the stock market had dropped down from 53,000 points to 44,000 points and provided no reason for why this occurred.”

“If rivers of milk were flowing, then why did such a drop occur?” the revenue minister questioned.

(This news/article originally appeared in DAWN on April 12th, 2019)

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