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Cabinet reshuffle for better or worse?

In the aftermath of growing criticism, Prime Minister, Imran Khan has found some scapegoats and reshuffled his cabinet. The induction of minister previously associated with rival political parties has attracted criticism as well discontent among PTI lovers. Selection of ex-ministers of rival political parties raises two perceptions: 1) PTI suffers from dearth of competent people and 2) non-state actors still control reins of the ruling junta. Some experts even go to the extent of saying that if Nawaz Sharif governments could be toppled; can Imran Khan also face the same fate?

While Imran Khan may have done many good things, his wizkid, Asad Umar, has failed miserably is putting the economy on track. The critics also say that Umar should not be made a scapegoat as he was given a free hand by Imran Khan. They rightly ask a question, was Umar doing things at his own or working as per instructions of Imran Khan? Whatever, may be the fact, Imran Khan has to take full responsibility of his acts. Therefore, making Umar a scapegoat was not only wrong, but also a bad reflection on ‘pragmatic thinking’ of Imran Khan.

Let the analysis be confined to one point, inability of Umar to finalize an amicable and mutually acceptable deal with International Monetary Fund (IMF). The inconclusive deal clearly indicates that the IMF and Imran Khan were not on the same page. Critics are right in saying that despite meeting most of the conditions stipulated by IMF, Imran Khan could not conclude the deal. Financial analysts say that uttering of Imran Khan against IMF and other multilateral donors spread over two decades have become the biggest thorn. Despite accepting most of conditions of IMF Imran Khan just accept the harsh reality of bowing down before IMF. Neither Imran can say no to IMF nor live without it because lending from other multilateral institutions is linked with ‘clean chit’ from the lender of last resort. Support from China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates may have provided some breathing space, but cannot offer a sustainable support.

Seasoned analysts say that Imran Khan has not succeeded in boosting economic activities in the country, which is evident from paltry GDP growth rate, nominal increase in exports and above all ballooning government borrowing from State Bank and commercial banks. When people suffer from declining income, saving as well as tax payments go down and force the government to cut developmental expenditure. They also do not consider declining imports a good omen for the country. While Imran Khan’s clan of political activist take pride in containing imports, analysts tantamount the decline to economic slowdown and eroding purchasing power of masses.

If on analyze the composition of imports, its overwhelming percentage comprises of energy and food products, plant and machinery and raw materials for industries. Therefore, the decline in imports indicates, slow down of economic activities and eroding purchasing power of masses.

 

Imran Khan has been saying, “I will not accept the dictate from IMF and other multilateral institutions”. However, he has been following all the bad recipes suggested by IMF and other lenders, the worst are: 1) increase in interest rate to contain inflation and 2) cut in subsidies and developmental expenditures to bridge deficit. According to analysts Pakistan suffers from cost pushed inflation and not demand driven inflation. Therefore, cost of inputs and doing business has to be brought down to contain inflation and restore competitiveness of the local manufacturers to boost exports from Pakistan to bridge current account deficit. The budget deficit is because of failure in boosting tax collection.

Analysts are also deadly against offering amnesty schemes. They say, “such schemes encourage people to evade tax and spread discontent among masses”. It is on record that elites comprising of feudal lords, industrial tycoons and politicians hardly pay any income tax, but an ordinary citizen pays tax through his nose. The government has imposed colossal indirect taxes on food items, petroleum products, salaried people and even public limited companies.

Many politicians, bureaucrats and economic analysts often hold IMF and other multilateral institutions responsible for all the miseries faced by Pakistanis. They are also critical of conditions imposed by the lenders, but have never come up with any ‘home grown recipe’. They hate IMF when it talks about increasing revenue collection, but have no plan whatsoever for containing budget deficit. They know very well that all sorts of income irrespective of the source have to be taxed, but leave the income from agriculture tax free. They also spread disinformation that taxing income from agriculture will hurt the small farmers.

Imran Khan has been talking about catching electricity and gas pilferers, but also endorsing hikes in electricity and gas tariffs. One completely fails to understand his logic of saving gas distribution companies by increasing gas tariff. His logic seems completely devoid of logic and common sense. Gas distribution companies are suffering because of blatant gas theft going on with the connivance of staff of gas distribution companies. Similarly, the biggest defaulters of gas companies are state owned enterprises and politicians.

Let Imran Khan also remember that strong economy is the biggest deterrent against all sorts of internal and external aggressions. People are losing faith in his government and if the uncertainty lingers on the non-state actors could become more aggressive.

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