PPP slams Govt’s attempt to hide debt under a new rug
Islamabad, June 15, 2017: Vice-President PPPP, Senator Sherry Rehman slammed the government for amending the definition of public debt without the approval of the federal cabinet. Rehman said, “The government has quietly pulled this move while public attention is on the Panama case and its investigations. To say that this is alarming is an understatement. It is unconstitutional and in direct violation of a Supreme Court judgment!”
In 2005, the definition of public debt was, “total public debt is a sum of total outstanding borrowings”. After changing it in 2016 it became, “total public debt means the debt of the government serviced out of the Consolidated Fund and debts owed to the International Monetary Fund”. This definition does not take into account publicly guaranteed debt and public debt taken by public sector enterprises.
Voicing her concern, the Senator said, “This change in definition which the government has done twice already will cosmetically reduce public debt to Rs18.9 trillion. What makes this all the more questionable is that this amendment was not mentioned in the Finance Bill approved by the federal cabinet. This is a blatant disregard of the Supreme Court judgment which bars changing procedures without approval from the federal cabinet. Does the government have a penchant for unlawful acts?”
“The Ministry of Finance can clearly no longer contain the debt that Pakistan has accumulated as a result of their ruinous policies. The government must address these economic issues head on and present a sound way forward but the Finance Ministry opts to take populist and often misleading policy statements instead,” stated Rehman.
“This change in definition which the government has done twice already will cosmetically reduce public debt to Rs18.9 trillion. What makes this all the more questionable is that this amendment was not mentioned in the Finance Bill approved by the federal cabinet.”
Rehman explained that changing the definition of public debt is yet another one of the government’s attempt to shift the red line in their favor regardless of its ethical or legal repercussions.
The Senator said, “The original definition of public debt states that it should not exceed 60% of the GDP but as of March 2017, public debt is 65.5% of the GDP. This is again open manipulation of the facts and the framework to judge what is acceptable and what is not”.
Criticizing the government’s disregard for the law, Rehman said, “The PML-N government has operated with impunity for the past four years. Their track record, especially when it comes major issues from foreign to public policy, shows up an administration with little to no respect for democratic practices”.
“PML-N is making economic history for all the wrong reasons. Throughout their term, the government has contracted crippling loans, often in the international capital markets. Other factors are also adding to this epic indebtedness of our future. The trade deficit is at a record-high at $30 billion, with no serious explanations on offer. To add to this, without any worry for the precedent they are setting, for the first time in the country’s history, the government passed the federal budget without including the opposition,” the Senator said.
As of June 2017, trade deficit widened by 42 per cent year-on-year. The National Assembly passed the Rs4.75 trillion federal budget on June 13, 2017 in the absence of the opposition.
“PML-N is making economic history for all the wrong reasons.”
“Pakistan is drowning in an unbelievable amount of debt and this government’s solution is to play with semantics to save face. They must understand that the public can no longer be fooled and that the PPP, which is answerable to the most vulnerable including all others, will not turn the other cheek on constitutional violations such as this,” the Vice-President of PPPP concluded