Begging Bowl to be broken: PML-N


The Promise

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, during the campaign of Election 2013, claimed that they would generate revenue within the country instead of begging from international financial institutions.

Background

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif had promised during the 2013 election campaigns that their government would “break the begging bowl.”

The Sharifs, during election speeches, had repeatedly said that their government would not take foreign loans because it damages Pakistan’s sovereignty. Shahbaz Sharif said foreign loans were just like opium for the nation.

The Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in its record ‘Compilation of Election Promises by Political Parties’’ recalled that Nawaz had said: “On coming to power, we will break the begging bowl.”

 

The Plan

Siddiqul Farooq, a former spokesman of PML-N and Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, said the PML-N has launched several schemes to make the country a success financially that would help Pakistan get rid of foreign loans. “A number of development schemes, including China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Energy Deficiency  Programme, infrastructure development, economic reforms, taxation policy, reforms in real-estate are incentives that would lead to self-sufficiency, employment  and increased funds for health would result in the eventual ‘breaking of the begging bowl’ and better economic conditions,” he said.

Yet, Farooq did not offer details about these programmes.

“We inherited around $2 billion foreign reserves and now we have nearly $25 billion foreign reserves,” he added.

“Once CPEC is completed by 2018 it will help add to the country’s foreign reserves and fight unemployment. Hence, the promises made prior to the election are in the process of being fulfilled.”

Tracking

Referring to PML-N’s promise, Senator Farhatullah Babar of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), said that it has been a tall claim that was never fulfilled. “The government is habitual of altering figures to paint a rosy picture of the economy,” Babar added.

When asked to comment on the PML-N’s promise of ‘breaking the begging bowl’, Dr. Arif Alvi, a lawmaker from Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), said, “Although Prime Minister Sharif is business-savvy, the economy, exports and agricultural sectors continue to go down.”

“They (the PML-N) have made the begging bowl even bigger,” he summed up.

PPP stalwart Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the PML-N had promised to subdue the skyrocketing rate of unemployment, which turned out to be another failed endeavor. The sitting rulers promised repeatedly the improvement of the declining agriculture sector but their claims amounted to nothing.

“The PML-N had announced a Rs. 342 billion agriculture package but a letter to the IMF disclosed that only Rs. 22-25 billion were actually disbursed,” he added.

“Forget about breaking the begging bowl, the begging bowl has actually been enlarged since the PML-N came to power,” Kaira remarked.

Regardless of all this, Farooq subscribes to the view that the performance of stock exchange in Pakistan has been the best in Asia.

When asked to briefly comment on whether the PML-N has fulfilled its promise of ‘breaking the begging bowl’, he said: “We are slowly but surely fulfilling our promise.”

Independent Viewpoint

Economist and Columnist Dr. Farrukh Saleem, in his e-mailed reply, provided the following figures regarding Pakistan’s debt and liabilities summary.

A total debt and liabilities stands at Rs. 20,706.2 billion for the first quarter of fiscal year 2016, showed the figures provided by Dr. Saleem.

However, according to a summary of consolidated federal and provincial budgetary operations 2015-16, a copy of which was obtained by Truth Tracker, the budget deficit stands at 1,349,323 million.

Similarly, the figures of external and domestic loans are Rs. 370, 465 million and Rs. 978,858 million respectively.

Dr. Abdul Rashid, a professor of economics at International Islamic University, Islamabad, explained that it is nearly impossible to break the begging bowl at a time when Pakistan’s tax net is extremely narrow. “Being an economist, I do not think it is an easy task to get rid of foreign aid,” he added.

He said that the government needs to change the taxes’ structure in order to do away with foreign loans.

Dr. Anwar Shah, Professor of Economics at Quaid e Azam University, while commenting on the PML-N promise, said that he fails to see any extraordinary improvement in the GDP ratio. “If the GDP ratio is not showing signs of improvement then we can assume that there is no proof of the begging bowl being broken,” Shah added.

Ruling

In the light of facts and figures given by the financial experts, Truth Tracker rules that the PML-N has broken its promise instead of the begging bowl.

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