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    Friday, 9 March 2018

    Federal Budget 2018-19 to be announced on April 27: Miftah

    The federal government will present the budget for fiscal year 2018-19for approval from the National Assembly on April 27, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail said on Friday.
    Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Ismail said that the government has taken all political parties into confidence about the budget, which he said would be presented on April 27 before the five-year tenure of the incumbent government ends on May 31.
    He claimed that the tenure of the outgoing government saw a decline in foreign loans and a rise in local loans."The PML-N government added 12,000MW of electricity to the system while work is underway on power projects worth 20,000MW," Ismail claimed, adding that areas where people regularly pay bills no longer experience loadshedding.
    The adviser claimed that Pakistan is now ranked on the fifth spot globally in the race for economic progress and international institutions have been rating Pakistan's economy positively.
    Speaking at the press conference, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said the revenue collection at the end of the previous government's tenure was Rs1,946 billion but the PML-N government has set the tax collection target of Rs4,013bn for the next year.
    The fiscal deficit for 2018-2019 is projected to be 5.2 per cent, the minister said.
    He said the federal development budget in the previous government's term was Rs348bn, but the current government earmarked Rs1,001bn for the sector.
    The current account deficit which used to vary between 2-3pc has been rising because of the "increasing pace of progress", Iqbal said.
    He said the increase in the country's import bill has contributed to the widening of the current account deficit, but claimed that exports have more than doubled under the current government's watch.IT has been more than a year since the IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, came to Pakistan and said that Pakistan faces a “moment of opportunity” as it graduates out of a fund programme.
    Reserves were at an all-time high, growth was gaining momentum, and inflation was subdued.
    The moment was perfect, she said in every interview, to undertake the right reforms to put the economy on a sustainable footing.
    But now, the IMF board has issued a warning.

    In a surprisingly worded statement, the board says that the government needs to urgently focus on short-term measures to contain the deterioration in the external and the fiscal accounts.
    Quite clearly, that ‘moment of opportunity’ has been squandered, and the country is now back on a glide path towards another IMF programme, and yet another round of macroeconomic ‘stabilisation’ is on the horizon.
    As the current account deficit continues to register massive increases, despite a slight depreciation in the exchange rate and two rounds of regulatory duties to discourage ‘nonessential imports’, the trade deficit is eating away at the reserves.
    Where it all ends is something that history has taught us with an almost monotonous consistency.
    Given that the year ahead is an election year which will see an interim government come and go, with an election in between, followed by the arrival of a new government, it will prove to be an increasingly difficult task to put the growing economic imbalances of the country on the public radar.
    This is also the year when the deficits, particularly on the external account, could grow to unmanageable proportions if present trends continue.
    In short, this could be, if trends do not correct themselves quickly, the year when the economy needs the most attention and is unable to find it because politics is in the driving seat.
    The warnings have been sounding for a few years now, especially since the visit of the IMF MD in October 2016.
    That was the month that reserves began their downward trajectory on which they have stayed ever since.
    Now, an authority no less than the board of directors at the IMF is warning that matters are urgent and require immediate attention.
    Given the politics of the moment, it is unlikely that the attention required will be forthcoming.

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