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Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal has said that Pakistan’s economy has revived and showing positive growth over the past four years. The economy was struggling with stagnant growth, unsustainable fiscal and external deficits, flagging investment and crippling energy constraints when our government assumed charge in 2013. These issues were acknowledged and addressed by the government. Eventually, Government’s commitment towards creating conducive economic milieu has led to a sustained economic recovery.
“National Development Outlay for 2018-18 at Rs 2113 billion is the highest ever in the history of Pakistan. This milestone has been achieved when the nation is celebrating 70th year of independence this year. All the ministries/ departments /institutions must put in extra ordinary efforts to complete projects and make their impact felt for the benefit of people of Pakistan” Said, Ahsan Iqbal
Ahsan Iqbal maintained that with unprecedented development efforts of the government, Pakistan will, very soon, get into an era of economic prosperity and equal opportunities of growth for all the people of Pakistan, Insha Allah.
He said that concerted efforts of our economic team have restored economic stabilisation, peace and security. The growth rate of 5.3 percent registered in 2016-17is the highest in past 9 years. The government managed to bring down the fiscal deficit from 8 percent to 3.6 percent (July-March 2016-17). Pakistan issued US$1.0 billion Sukuk at a relatively lower rate of 5.5 percent in October 2016. Pakistan Stock exchange has crossed the 52000 points for the first time in May 2017.
Ahsan said, "the overall sentiment in the economy is upbeat. Policy rate stands at a multi-decade low level of 5.75 percent. The private sector credit increased considerably over the first ten months of 2016-17 showing increased activity in the economy. Businesses, particularly foreign investors and companies operating in Pakistan are optimistic over their prospects and profits. The latest Perceptions and Investment Surveyof Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicates that services sector, chemical , cement, non-metallics, and real estate are the most booming sectors in the economy.
He said, inflationary pressures have receded and inflation is contained below 6 percent. Average inflation is at 4 percent for July-April 2016-17.As per Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence, consumer confidence index reached its highest level since 2008 in December 2016. The national Consumer Confidence survey also depicts an improving consumer demand as consumer confidence index registered an all-time high of 176.5 points in March 2017. This reflects the favourable conditions in the economy, such as improved security, increased energy availability, low inflation rates, and increased tourism among other factors.
Ahsan Iqbal further stated that Pakistan’s stock market was the best stock market in Asia in 2016. The creation of Pakistani Stock Exchange was welcomed by both the local and international investors. Moreover, 40 percent strategic shares of Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) have been sold to a Chinese Consortium. This divestment is the first such sale in a bourse in the regional markets and it also marks first venture of Chinese bourse outside China. The consultation with MSCI to reclassify Pakistan index to emerging markets has further elevated financial market sentiment.
He was of the view that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has the potential to further spur GDP growth and transform Pakistan into a regional economic hub.The early harvest energy projects under CPEC are expected to have discernible impact on Pakistan. The establishment of ‘Special Economic Zones’ (SEZ) offering exemptions and ease of business alongside CPEC will facilitate domestic and foreign investment. These SEZs would have multiplier effect on growth via connectivity to other regions, accessibility to markets, job creation etc.) This will also help in integrating less developed areas such as Gilgit-Baltistan, Thar and Gwadar into the folds of active development. The enhanced power generation capacity and connectivity is expected to augment growth in medium to long term. "CPEC also provides opportunity to harness the youth bulge. Pakistan’s demographic profile coupled with immense opportunities under CPEC can take Pakistan into a bright era of persistent growth and development. The challenge is to sustain macroeconomic stability and achieve higher GDP growth rate in order to create opportunities in the labour market to absorb the youth bulge Implementation of CPEC carries bright chances of providing decent jobs in construction, logistics, transport & communication and trade & commerce".
Ahsan Iqbal stated that the economic growth prospects are positive for 2017-18 with rebound ofagriculture sector, strong performance of the industry, pickup in private sector credit, macroeconomic stabilisation, political stability and improved security situation. We look forward to sustaining this growth momentum with sound economic policies of the Government and efforts of the Planning Commission for reforms in all sectors of the economy. We hope to achieve the macroeconomic growth targets set in the Annual Plan 2017-18 and long term goals set under the Pakistan Vision 2015.
He said that the public Sector Development Program, first time in the history of Pakistan, has achieved landmark public sector investment at Rs 2.5 trillion. "Federal PSDP at Rs 1.0 trillion and Provincial development programs at Rs 1.1 trillion will be supplemented by self financed program of WAPDA / PEPCO at Rs 0.4 trillion".
For CPEC projects, Rs 180 billion have been kept to ensure that these are completed without any further delay except that which happened due to political disturbance in the year 2014.
Similarly, Health coverage to every citizen is one of the top priorities of PML (N) government. This is obvious from the funds allocated to health and population welfare at Rs 56 billion in 2017-18 compared to Rs 30 billion in 2016-17 – an increase of 87 per cent. For national health program, Rs 10 billion have been kept during 2017-18 and another Rs 9 billion are provided for new hospital in the country", said Ahsan Iqbal.
Ahsan Iqbal maintained that the Federal Government was more conscious of education for every child of the nation. It should be a matter of proud for all of us that development outlay in education has been tremendously increased from Rs 30 billion in 2016-17 to Rs 47 billion in 2017-18 – an increase of 57%.
He said, in the field of higher education, Enterprise Resource Planning System and IT Training for 100, 000 youth is being launched along with up-gradation of Labs in Engineering Universities, and Establishment of Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security and Robotics and Automation. "Government is focusing on socio-economic uplift of AJ&K, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan to bring them at par with rest of the country. In year 2017-18, Rs 67 billion has been earmarked for development in these areas as compared to Rs 48 billion in 2016-17 – an increase of 40 per cent. I feel very proud to inform the nation that federal government is providing Rs 9.6 billion for K-IV water supply project of Karachi to complete it during 2017-18. I hope that Government of Sindh will make all efforts for its early completion".
He further stated, "Big news for the people of Karachi, that federal government has provided Rs 13 billion for Green Bus Project for its completion during 2017-18".
Taking about road networks and the allocation for this purpose, he said that for Burhan Hakla CPEC route, Rs 38 billion have been provided. Another handsome amount of Rs 26 billion has been earmarked for Thahkot to Havelian.
"To address water problem in Balochistan, special priority has been given over other provinces and Rs 17 billion out of total allocation of Rs 38 billion has been kept for various small and medium dams and Kachhi canal in Balochistan which is 45 per cent. All other three provinces combined will get 55 per cent share in water sector, he maintained.