PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday claimed that he and former finance minister Shaukat Tarin had warned the “neutrals” that the “fragile economic recovery would go into a tailspin” if the conspiracy against the PTI government succeeded.
Taking to Twitter, Imran said: “Rupee at all time low Rs193/$ (from Rs178 on March 8); interest rates at 15 per cent highest since 1998, stock market down 3,000 points or 6.4pc; stock market lost Rs604 billion capitalisation; inflation 13.4pc highest since Jan 2020.”
He went on to say that the numbers reflected the “lowest-ever confidence in the imported government”.
“Market awaiting policy and action which imported government has failed to provide. Both myself and Shaukat Tarin had warned the ‘neutrals’ that if [the] conspiracy succeeded, our fragile economic recovery would go into a tailspin,” he said.
The word “neutral” entered the political discourse following DG ISPR Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar’s briefing in March in which he categorically stated that the army had nothing to do with politics and called for avoiding unnecessary discussion and speculation about the army’s alleged involvement in political affairs.
Govt’s indecision eroding confidence
Imran’s remarks come as the Pakistan Stock Exchange and the rupee have both come under pressure over the past few days as the new coalition government has failed to take decisive economic decisions.
Earlier today, the greenback climbed above Rs193 in the interbank market, reaching a new all-time high and breaking its previous day’s record of Rs192 mark. This was the fourth consecutive day the dollar rose to a record high against the rupee.
Analysts and experts have linked the economic pressure to uncertainty over the continuation of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) loan programme coupled with a rising oil import bill and widening trade deficit.
Dawn’s editorial on Wednesday noted that the most important factor behind the erosion of investor sentiment has been the failure of the new coalition government to come up with a credible plan to take politically tough decisions to fix the economy. For example, it remains undecided about the reversal of the fiscally unsustainable energy subsidies, which is the ‘prior action’ that IMF wants it to take before it agrees to restart funding.
In recent meetings with the new finance minister, the IMF has linked the continuation of its loan programme with the reversal of fuel subsidies, which were introduced by the previous government. However, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has now twice rejected the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority’s summaries to increase fuel prices.
The PTI had announced a four-month freeze (until June 30) on petrol and electricity prices on February 28 as part of a series of measures to bring relief to the public.
The PML-N coalition government had severely criticised Imran Khan’s government for “derailing” the IMF programme through fuel subsidies but despite being at the helm for over a month, it has not reversed the subsidies. Finance Minister Miftah Ismail has repeatedly said these subsidies are not feasible and are costing the government Rs120 billion a month.
Ismail said petrol should have been priced at Rs245 per litre according to the agreement the former government did with the IMF. However, the PML-N led government was still selling it at Rs145 per litre and would try its best to maintain that price, he added — a sign that the new government is finding it difficult to take a decision that might be unpopular with its voters.
In an editorial published today, Dawn said that the PML-N was caught up in ‘private consultations — a reference to the senior leadership’s trip to London to meet with Nawaz Sharif — as panic continues to grow over its inability to start working on fixing the economy.
The editorial called for the PML-N to firmly decide its future course of action, saying: “It’s time to lead or get out of the way.”
Govt responds to Imran
Responding to Imran’s claims, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb held the former prime minister responsible for the country’s economic collapse and the historic rise of the dollar against the rupee.
“If there is a historic rise in [price of] the dollar, then Imran Khan is responsible. The dollar has soared to Rs193 because of him.”
She went on to say that the people had been burdened with inflation due to the previous government’s agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “For the last four years, the incompetent, the cartels and the Imran mafia carried out economic terrorism,” the minister said.
Aurangzeb said that Imran had done irreparable damage when dealing with petrol, all in an effort to save his failing politics. “If tough decisions are being taken today, then Imran Khan is responsible,” she said, adding that the PTI chairman was now sitting on a high horse in an effort to hide his “anti-people economic crimes”.
Directly addressing Imran, the minister said that putting the country’s people and economy at stake was treason. She also said that he was making a ruckus about inflation when he was responsible for it, calling on him to give an answer for the economic destruction he had caused.