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Govt returned 'empty handed' from trips to friendly countries, says Asad Umar

Govt returned 'empty handed' from trips to friendly countries, says Asad Umar

PTI leader and former planning minister Asad Umar on Sunday claimed that no foreign country was willing to offer support to the incumbent government, saying Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif returned "empty-handed" from trips seeking to secure financial support to prop up Pakistan's ailing economy.

PM Shehbaz and members of his cabinet had embarked on their first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia since coming to power. During his three-day visit, he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials.

A joint statement at the conclusion of the trip said the two countries agreed to discuss extending the term of a $3 billion loan to help Pakistan's new government tide over the prevailing economic crisis.

PM Shehbaz later went to the UAE, following which a joint statement said the two countries expressed their desire to strengthen "bilateral economic cooperation".

Late last month, the new government also resumed talks with the IMF to revive its stalled programme, with negotiations being led by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail. In a talk at the Atlantic Council, he said he agreed with a key demand of the IMF to remove fuel subsidies — instituted by the PTI. “They've talked about removing the subsidy on fuel. I agree with them,” Ismail had said.

He had also blamed the PTI for "ruining the economy".

Weeks later, the government has appeared to be reluctant on doing away with the costly subsidies, which is estimated to haemorrhage cash to the tune of another Rs75 billion over the next fortnight.

In his presser today, Asad Umar said: "No countries including China, Saudi Arabia, UAE — even the International Monetary Fund — are giving money to Pakistan."

He quoted experts as saying that the situation in Pakistan was bleak and it was just "weeks away from a Sri Lanka-like situation".

Also read: Miftah in US for IMF talks, blames PTI for ruining economy

The ex-minister claimed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was "clueless" and did not have the courage to take decisions. "Finance Minister Miftah Ismail is looking at Shehbaz, who is looking at Ishaq Dar, who is reliant on Nawaz Sharif, while the convicted former PM, in turn, is hopelessly looking at Zardari... and the cycle goes on."

He claimed Zardari was "enjoying" the current situation the most in which PM Shehbaz is completely "helpless".

No-trust motion 'hampered' economic progress

Umar also spoke at length about the PTI's economic record. He predicted the growth rate could go as high as 6 per cent this year, saying it was due to the steps taken by his government in the last two years to revive the economy.

"This will be for the first time after 15 years that economic growth is above 5pc for two consecutive years," the PTI leader said, adding that the no-confidence motion had "hampered" economic progress.

He underlined the reserves of the State Bank of Pakistan declined by 37pc after the no-confidence motion against the PTI government succeeded.

Umar said that the industrial sector never witnessed a growth of up to 7pc since 2005, however, "the current year is the second consecutive year where our industrial growth rate stands at 10pc".

Similarly, he said, energy production increased by 10pc during the PTI government's tenure.

He recounted a statement Miftah Ismail made several months ago wherein he had warned the PTI regime of an opposition protest if the price of petrol would be raised from Rs137 per litre. "Miftah Ismail must keep in mind his statement before taking any further decision on the petrol price," said the PTI leader.

He insisted that no one has confidence in the government's affirmation that it would complete its tenure. "No investor is believing this."

He said "no one can clearly predict who will be in government next month". "Even the government is in disbelief in this regard," he added.

In a separate tweet , Umar said time was "running out" and the economic condition of the country was deteriorating with "each passing day".

The ex-minister, in another tweet from yesterday, said the country's growth forecast for this year had been above 5pc. "Great crops numbers coming in particularly sugar cane, maize, rice and potato. Plus the double digit growth of large scale manufacturing recently released means growth for this year should be even higher than the 5.6pc last year."

In response, Miftah Ismail said the PTI government ended up importing sugar and wheat which the "PML-N government was exporting until 2018".

He lashed out at the PTI saying it took 80pc of all debt taken in the previous 71 years.

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