THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, WASHINGTON, 14th OCTOBER 2013:
On Saturday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar briefed the US Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs Lael Brainard about the country’s efforts towards macroeconomic stabilisation.
The Under Secretary leads the development and implementation of policies in the areas of international finance, trade in financial services, investment, economic development and international debt.
Dar, who is in Washington to spearhead a Pakistani delegation to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank annual meetings, also informed Brainard about the actions taken by the government in the first four months, saying that the measures of the new government had put the economy back on track, according to an aide to the finance minister.
Dar highlighted that the government had cleared the crippling circular debt of over Rs550 billion, and in doing so had added 1,700 megawatts (MW) to the national grid. Also, the government had initiated structural reforms to expand the tax base, resulting in 20% boost in tax revenues.
Dar said that these steps had restored the confidence of investors and multilateral agencies, which is evident from the fact that foreign direct investment inflows had clocked in more than double in the first quarter and the overseas chamber of commerce had improved Pakistan’s rating from negative 34 to plus two.
The finance minister said that the government had set an ambitious target for the economy in the next three years which included reducing the fiscal deficit by half, doubling the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate and boosting investment by 50%.
The measures taken and the ambitious target had led to the approval of the bailout programme by the IMF. The Washington-based fund, he said, had endorsed the policies of the incumbent government.
Brainard appreciated the bold decision taken by the new government to revive Pakistan’s economy. She observed that these steps would help create employment opportunities and pull investment into the country. She assured the finance minister of all possible help to achieve the targets set by the government.
Later, Dar addressed a gathering of a group of Pakistanis and Americans at the Embassy of Pakistan, which hosted a dinner in honour of the visiting finance minister and his team of economic managers including Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood Khan, State Bank of Pakistan Governor Yaseen Anwar, and economic affairs division secretary.
Charge d’ Affaires Dr Asad Majeed Khan welcomed the finance minister and praised his expertise and focus in dealing with the economic challenges faced by the country.
In his wide-ranging speech, Dar touched upon a string of structural reforms and measures that the government launched right away and assured the guests that the government was pursuing a clear-cut, target-oriented roadmap for economic rebound.
He cited a number of hopeful positive economic indicators that have emerged in the wake of the new policies in the last four months. Regarding energy issues, he said the government is taking immediate, medium and long-term steps to meet the fast-increasing energy needs of the country.