Imran Khan’s vows on economy ‘rhetoric, not reality,’ say economists

Imran Khan. (AP)
Updated 20 August 2018

Imran Khan’s vows on economy ‘rhetoric, not reality,’ say economists

  • Economists say new PM needs a pragmatic approach to successfully revive the country’s ailing economy
  • Khan calls on public to support government’s crackdown on corruption

KARACHI: Economists and business leaders have accused Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan of failing to deliver a pragmatic policy to tackle the country’s mounting economic woes.
Commenting on Khan’s first address as prime minister on Sunday, Dr. Ikram-ul-Haq, a senior economist, said: “He only touched on some of the areas that are worrying. The PTI as party in waiting has failed to produce a concrete policy and plans to handle the economic challenges.”
Khan described the country’s economic problems as the most pressing in its history, and promised to transform its Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and introduce incentives to attract foreign investment.
Pakistan’s current account deficit has surged by more than 40 percent in the past year to $18 billion by the end of the last fiscal year.
“In the history of Pakistan, economic conditions have never been as bad as today,” the prime minister said.
However, Haq told Arab News: “So far, there is only a desire to revive the economy, but an actual agenda backed by pragmatic analysis and research is missing.
“From rhetoric to reality will be the challenge in the coming days.
“The monstrous debt, and huge fiscal and current account deficits are symptoms of an ailing economy,” Haq said.
Mohammed Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities, said: “Considering the external accounts problems, it would be challenging for a new economic team to put the PTI’s economic agenda to work.”
Khan has said that reforming the FBR, Pakistan’s tax collection authority, is his top priority, but has failed to offer details or an action plan.
“The FBR desperately needs reforms from top to bottom. Corruption is rampant and nobody is there to question,” Dr. Ashfaque Hassan, senior economist and former adviser to Ministry of Finance, told Arab News.
“The government will have to bring in someone from outside the FBR as chairman to achieve the reforms it mentioned.” 
Low export levels are a major reason for the growing trade deficit, with the prime minister announcing plans for a committee to address the deficiency.
“A committee was also formed by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The current economic team is good and they need to increase exports by any means,” Ghazanfar Bilour, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.
“We have been constantly calling for return of our export refunds, which exporters desperately need, and relief to our export-based industry. Our input cost is too high and renders us uncompetitive on the international market.” 
Khan also said the government will encourage small businesses to ensure an economic uplift. The move was hailed by small traders and manufacturers, who called for concrete steps to be taken.
“The cottage industry is Pakistan is on the verge of collapse due to lack of cheap inputs such as electricity and other raw material,” Mahmood Hamid, president of the All Pakistan Organization of Small Traders and Cottage Industries, said. 
“If translated into reality, the PM’s plans will alleviate poverty from the country since this sector is one of the biggest jobs providers,” he said.
Khan is also leading an austerity drive to cut down expenditure. 
“Pakistan’s prime minister has 524 workers and 80 cars, of which 33 are bullet proof. The price of each car is more than 50 million Pakistan rupees ($500,000),” he said, promising to cut the number of employees and government vehicles.
Khan called for public support in his government’s fight against corruption. “You should stand by me. Either the country will survive or the corrupt people will,” he said.


Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

Updated 53 min 33 sec ago

Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

  • Uneasy calm prevailing in northeast Delhi
  • Modi government blames opposition for violence

NEW DELHI: At least 32 people have been killed in the deadliest violence to engulf India’s capital New Delhi for decades as a heavy deployment of security forces brought an uneasy calm on Thursday, a police official said.
The violence began over a disputed new citizenship law on Monday but led to clashes between Muslims and Hindus in which hundreds were injured. Many suffered gunshot wounds, while arson, looting and stone-throwing has also taken place.
“The death count is now at 32,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said, adding the “entire area is peaceful now.”
At the heart of the unrest is a citizenship law which makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighboring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the new law adopted last December is of “great concern” and she was worried by reports of police inaction in the face of assaults against Muslims by other groups.
“I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” Bachelet said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has denied having any prejudice against India’s 180 million Muslims, saying that law is required to help persecuted minorities.
New Delhi has been the epicenter for protests against the new law, with students and large sections of the Muslim community leading the protests.
As the wounded were brought to hospitals on Thursday, the focus shifted on the overnight transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar, a Delhi High Court judge who was hearing a petition into the riots and had criticized government and police inaction on Wednesday.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the transfer was routine and had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier this month.
Opposition Congress party leader Manish Tiwari said every lawyer and judge in India should strongly protest what he called a crude attempt to intimidate the judiciary.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said inflammatory speeches at the protests over the new citizenship law in the last few months and the tacit support of some opposition leaders was behind the violence.
“The investigation is on,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who romped to re-election last May, also withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August with the objective of tightening New Delhi’s grip on the restive region, which is also claimed by full by Pakistan.
For months the government imposed severe restrictions in Kashmir including cutting telephone and Internet lines, while keeping hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders, in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests. Some restrictions have since been eased.
Bachelet said the Indian government continued to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media in the region, even though some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects.