Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan's party leaders have criticised the budget announced by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, describing it as artificial and unrealistic, and accused him of figure fudging of Rs 1 trillion in the amount of interest payments and non-tax revenue.
The Pakistan government on Friday unveiled a Rs 14.4 trillion budget for 2023-24 as it battled to fend off a looming default due to shrinking foreign reserves.
Dar, who presented the budget in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, said the government will target a growth rate of 3.5 per cent in the coming fiscal year.
Leaders of the Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party termed it an “Instagrammable budget”.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar alleged that some of the announcements, such as salary increases, have been made to retain the vote bank.
Azhar said the finance minister did not outline any plan to reduce inflation or to save the sinking economy.
“All targets in this budget are artificial and not realistic like last year,” he said, adding that the targets regarding economic growth, tax collection, inflation rate, imports and remittances were written only to balance the budget, as they had nothing to do with reality.
He alleged that there was a figure fudging of Rs 1 trillion in the amount of interest payments and non-tax revenue.
He stated that the finance minister did not outline any plan to reduce inflation or save the sinking economy, as industrial production fell by 25 per cent in the last two months due to the ban on the import of raw materials and the shrinking economy.
“The budget has a new external debt target of USD 8.5bn but this would not be possible without the IMF," he added.
Cash-strapped Pakistan is awaiting a much-needed USD 1.1 billion tranche of funding from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund, which was originally due to be disbursed in November last year.
The funds are part of a USD 6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019, which analysts say is critical if Pakistan is to avoid defaulting on external debt obligations.
Party’s financial expert Muzammil Aslam, while talking to the Dawn newspaper said that it was nothing but an “Instagrammable budget with filters on”.
“It is going to be the first time in history that the liabilities of interest on loans will be more than the total income/revenue of the country. Some of the steps such as 35pc increase in salaries and 17.5pc increase in pensions have been announced for the vote bank,” he said.
Aslam claimed that there will be a series of mini and micro budgets and the new government will be left with no choice but to revise the budget.
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