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EditorialCan Ishaq Dar make a turnaround?

Can Ishaq Dar make a turnaround?

As the government has admitted candidly that it is bracing for the shockwave of inflation after the tough terms agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the skyrocketing prices of fuels, such as the liquified natural gas and petroleum products, the economic wizards seem to have lost all options to improve the economy. No doubt, the incumbent finance minister, Miftah Ismael, and his team prepared a balanced budget but in the ensuing days, the IMF pressure forced the government to change it altogether and now the whole budget scheme is book of taxes, taxes and taxes. As the coming months may trigger discontent among the general public, particularly, and trading and industrialist classes, generally, it is imperative for the government to introduce the right measures to put the things on right track. The team of Finance Minister Miftah Ismael is hardly prepared for this task. Does this mean that the government is short of options to combat the likely unrest and put the economy to the track? Well, the one lost option is giving the ministry charge to the tested hands of former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who has the track record of taking out the economy from ruinous quarters and stabilizing it single handedly back in 2013. Not to forget that when Mr Dar was given the charge of the finance ministry, the dollar rate was going up, the power sector was under huge circular debt and the country was under a sever loadshedding. Instead of wasting time in useless, officialdom deliberations, Mr Dar took practical steps and within a couple of months, he was able to contain the dollar rise, pay circular debt partially, and start working on power deals. The reason is Mr Dar had already a workable plan, which he executed and got results. This is the only thing, which apparently Miftah Ismael and his predecessors missed.

The government must consult Mr Dar and make arrangements to bring him back from London to Pakistan, where he is currently in self-imposed exile. He is facing National Accountability Bureau cases too. Mr Dar indicates that if he returns, and is made in charge of economic affairs, he may renegotiate the IMF terms, which the incumbent government and the previous government have accepted. When Mr Dar was the finance minister back in 2013, he also signed an agreement with the IMF, quite different from the present one and also successfully concluded the whole deal in September 2016. That was the time when the country achieved high growth – close to 6 per cent. It is true when Mr Dar was minister, he had all the favourable circumstances during his tenure: the world witnessed the cheapest oil prices in the international markets; the US had no major issues with Pakistan on the Afghan problem, and there were no major conflicts, such as the Russia-Ukraine war. Now is quite a different time. Pakistan needs such a plan which grow its economic growth, whereas the the ongoing IMF programme has resulted in contracting the economic activities, while growing inflation and high interest rates have made it hard for everyone to live month to month. The end-sufferer is not only a trader and industrialist but also common people. The immediate task for the government is to bring down the inflation level and interest rates. The devaluation of the rupee is another embarrassment. Let the government give a chance to Mr Dar who may get the country out of economic problems.

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