Election 2018: PML-N promises to ultra-modernize economy

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Ahsan Iqbal, former minister for interior and minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, addressing an election campaign rally. (Image taken from Ahsan Iqbal’s Twitter account)
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Mian Shahbaz Sharif, PML-N president, Ahsan Iqbal and other leaders at an election campaign rally. (Image taken from Ahsan Iqbal’s Twitter account)
Updated 24 July 2018
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Election 2018: PML-N promises to ultra-modernize economy

  • PML-N takes credit for economic growth at 13-year high and improved law and order
  • Critics judge the outgoing ruling party for historic-high current account deficit, rising inflation and increasing trade imbalance

KARACHI: As Pakistan gears up for the general election on July 25, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz-PML-N has promised to build on the foundation of modern energy and logistics infrastructure and take the economy to the next level by enabling an agro-industrial revolution for job creation.

“Our top economic priority will be sustaining growth momentum, focusing on resource mobilization, increasing exports and job creation through industrialization and implementation of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) projects,” Ahsan Iqbal, who served as Minister for Interior and Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms in the last PML-N administration, told Arab News.
Economists and industrialists have given mixed ratings to the PML-N’s five years, deeming the party’s last year in office as the least successful. 
PML-N has taken credit for economic growth, which is currently running at a 13-year high, reduced load shedding, low inflation and interest rates, the improved security situation and liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports. 
“Deterioration in external account, increasing external debts and liabilities, poor performance of distribution companies, mounting circular debt, failure to privatize and reduce losses of public sector enterprises (PSEs), high reliance on indirect taxation, high fiscal deficit, artificially inflated Pakistan rupee against the USdollar, and less spending on health and education were the areas where PML-N missed its targets”, said Muhammad Sohail, senior analyst and CEO of Topline Securities.
“PML-N has delivered on the 3Es it promised in 2013: Energy, elimination of extremism and the economy. Today, load shedding of 18-20 hours has ended. We have added nearly 11,000MW of new power compared to 18,000MW in 66 years. Peace has returned and GDP growth has increased from 3 percent to 5.8 percent highest in last 13 years. Our failure has been in the export sector due to global economic crisis. However, in the last year exports have shown promising rise,” Iqbal said in a response to a question asking him about PML-N’s record.
However, economists have termed the historic high current account deficit CAD as a major failure of PML-N government.
“During the tenure the quantum of our external loans and liabilities substantially increased. Trade deficit deteriorated our external position which led the current account deficit to an all-time high”, Dr. Hafiz Pasha, senior economist and former finance minister, told Arab News.
“The performance of the PML-N government was a blend of success and failures. The government successfully controlled inflation rate and increased power generation, but failed to upgrade the country’s ageing power supply systems”, Dr. Pasha added. 

PMLN- Hits and misses: PML-N’s record, 2013-2018. (Source: Topline Securities)


“We could either go slow on fixing the energy crisis or make fast progress. Going slow would have kept the growth rate low while nearly two million young people enter the job market every year. We followed the accelerated path to fix the energy crisis, which meant one-off imports of machinery. As electricity became available, industry started expanding and modernizing, putting more pressure on imports. These are one-off productive investments and boost our growth,” Iqbal added.
“Exports of textiles and value-added products has reduced drastically — once the share of these items was more then 60 percent, but presently it is far less. The case for refunding exporters has been pending for more than three years. They did not give due attention to small and medium-sized enterprises and water crises were not addressed,” said Dr. Athar Ahmed, senior economist.
Some economists praise the PML-N government’s performance over four years, adding that the last year in power let them down. 
“Whatever gains were made during four years in office were lost with double speed last year. They have left with highest ever debts, an empty treasury, and high spending,” Muzzammil Aslam, senior economist and CEO of EFG-Hermes Pakistan, told Arab News. He added: “They needed a magic wand to cure the economic ills.”
Experts from the worlds of business and trade were frustrated at the lack of progress on the major issue of export refund.
“Our chronic problem of refund was UN?resolved. The cost of production in Pakistan is high compared to other countries, something which was not addressed adequately”, said Ghazanfar Bilour, President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is another initiative that the PML-N takes credit for, deeming it to be a game-changer for Pakistan.
“With the PM-N government, there will be swift and fast implementation of CPEC projects as PML-N government has seen it grow from inception. Without PML-N, any other government will have to first educate itself about the background of each project and naturally the momentum will break,” said Ahsan Iqbal, who played a leading role in the implementation of CPEC projects.
In the party manifesto, Shahbaz Sharif, President of PML-N, recently promised to increase annual GDP growth rate to over 7 percent and reduce the budget deficit to below an average of 4 percent of GDP, bring industrial growth to between 8 and 10 percent, and create two million jobs.


French police clear fuel protesters as movement wanes

Updated 48 min 26 sec ago
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French police clear fuel protesters as movement wanes

PARIS: French police cleared demonstrators blocking roads and fuel depots Tuesday in a crackdown on the so-called "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron that have left two people dead.
Hundreds of thousands of people blockaded roads across France on the weekend, wearing high-visibility yellow vests in a national wave of defiance aimed at 40-year-old centrist Macron.
The protests had waned by Tuesday but the disruption underlined the anger and frustration felt by many motorists, particularly in rural areas or small towns, fed up with what they see as the government's anti-car policies, including tax hikes on diesel.
Macron, who has made a point of not backing down in the face of public pressure during his time in office, called Tuesday for more "dialogue" to better explain his policies.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, meanwhile, urged ruling Republic On The Move lawmakers to stand firm in the face of voter criticism, saying the party would reap the rewards of its "constancy and determination".
Two people have been accidentally killed and 530 people injured, 17 seriously, over four days of protests that have come to encompass a wide variety of grievances over the rising cost of living.
A 37-year-old motorcyclist died Tuesday from injuries sustained a day earlier after being hit by a truck making a u-turn to avoid a roadblock in the southeast Drome region, a judicial source said.
The other victim was a 63-year-old woman accidently killed by a panicked driver in the eastern Savoie region on the first day of protests.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has instructed police to break up the remaining roadblocks, particularly those around fuel depots and sites of strategic importance.
"We can see today that there are real excesses from a movement that was for the most part conducted in good spirit on Saturday," he told France 2 TV.
The ministry said about 20 "strategic" sites and fuel depots in several regions were cleared of protesters Tuesday.
Some hardliners kept blockades and slowdowns at some tolls, motorway junctions, and roundabouts.
"The movement won't run out of steam," said Olivier Garrigues, a farmworker at one protest in the south. "There are less people because everyone is working. But we are organised."
Several of the injuries were caused by motorists trying to force their way through roadblocks, but some protesters have also been accused of intimidating and endangering motorists.
A 32-year-old man with a history of violence was given a four-month prison sentence by a Strasbourg court for putting lives at risk by taking part in a human chain across a motorway.
Protests have also erupted in Reunion, a French overseas territory island in the Indian Ocean, where authorities introduced a partial curfew in some neighbourhoods after a night of violence.
AFP judicial sources Tuesday denied media reports that a group of men arrested earlier this month in the city of Saint-Etienne on suspicion of plotting an attack had planned to strike during Saturday's fuel protests.
On Tuesday, the "yellow vests" appeared to be losing steam, with only a fraction of the nearly 300,000 people that manned the barricades on Saturday still camped out in the bitter cold.
Further protests are planned for the weekend, with some calling for a blockade of Paris.
The grassroots movement, which has won backing from opposition parties on both the left and right as well as a majority of respondents in opinion polls, accuses Macron of squeezing the less well-off while reducing taxes for the rich.
"It's about much more than fuel. They (the government) have left us with nothing," Dominique, a 50-year-old unemployed technician told AFP at a roadblock in the town of Martigues, near the southern city of Marseille.
Macron's government, trying to improve its environmental credentials, has vowed not to back down on trying to wean people off their cars through fuel taxes.
The government has unveiled a 500-million-euro package of measures to help low-income households, including energy subsidies and higher scrappage bonuses for the purchase of cleaner vehicles.