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Tuesday, July 23, 2024  
17 Muharram 1446  

Won’t tolerate pressure to make tough decisions, says PM Shehbaz

In live address to nation, he hopes new IMF programme will be Pakistan's last
PM Shehbaz Sharif first address to the nation after approval of Budget 2024-25 - Aaj News

In a live address to the nation on Saturday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stated that he would ‘tolerate’ any pressure to make ‘tough decisions’ for the country’s progress.

“This is a promise to you that I will make the toughest decisions and will not tolerate any pressure to brighten the future of the country and the next generation,” he said in his first address to the nation after assuming power in March.

The 45-minute address focused on the incumbent government’s performance in the first 100 days, the situation in Palestine and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the annual budget, the new International Monetary Fund programme, and investment pledges from the Gulf states.

PM Shehbaz has been vocal about the economy and the loans required to meet the nation’s expenses, including salaries, pensions, and development funds.

But several business experts have criticised the PML-N government for its Fiscal Year budget for 2024-25 and the defamation law in Punjab—the largest populated province also ruled by the N-league. They have maintained that the budget was nothing new as further taxes were imposed on the salaried class while the elites were having exemptions.

Still, the premier has been making claims about his government’s plans and intentions to develop the country.

“Together, we will render sacrifices and change the destiny of the country and hopefully Pakistan soon will be a great nation,” PM Shehbaz said, “but I cannot do this alone. I will need your help at every step. Except this, this dream cannot be achieved.”

He urged the nation to assist him in this endeavour, which he claimed was being started by the government and the elite. “You will see the big changes in the coming days,” PM Shehbaz said and described the targets achieved in more than three months as “paltry”.

The premier urged the nation to vow to change the country’s fate “not by words, but by action.”

He wished the nation on Eid, which would be celebrated on Monday in Pakistan. The government has announced three holidays on the occasion starting from Monday to Wednesday.

The premier called for peace in Palestine where Israeli strikes after the October 7 attack have killed more than 37,000 people.

While highlighting the performance of the Pakistan Democratic Movement after the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan through a vote of no-confidence in 2022, the premier claimed that the ruling coalition government had helped the country avoid default.

100 days of PML-N government

The PML-N government completed 100 days on Saturday, according to the premier. He gave credit to his elder brother Nawaz Sharif for economic achievements like decreased inflation and increasing reserves. He also spoke about the petrol and diesel prices, which the government slashed on Friday.

“This is not enough,” he said and stressed the need for creating an enabling environment for investment, business and providing education to the talented youth in the country.

At one point, he underscored the need for learning from past mistakes.

It was the priority of the government to take austerity measures and shut down ministries that were of “no use,” he said and added that Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD) ministry was among ministries “infamous for corruption.”

He added that the expenses, including perks and privileges, of the Pak PWD were a burden on the national exchequer.

“I have decided that closure of institutions that have become a burden on the nation instead of providing help was necessary,” he said and added that a ministerial committee has been formed in this regard.

“In the next two to three months, I will come in front of you with a better message,” PM Shehbaz, “I think it will be the biggest step to cut expenses and save funds.”

The premier spoke about his trips to China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

While highlighting the investment pledges made by the two Gulf nations, he said that the government has made a plan under the Special Investment Facilitation Council—a civil-military hybrid forum.

According to the premier, the government has to create an environment that is enabling for internal and foreign investments.

He reiterated what Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has been saying: the digitisation of the Federal Board of Revenue to minimise human intervention and ensure cashless transactions.

Pakistan signed an agreement with McKinsey and Company to help Pakistan with end-to-end digitisation of the tax authority.

“They [McKinsey] will work on the design and they will work on the implementation side as well,” Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said while speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Opening Doors with Fintech’ during the special meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Riyadh on April 28.

He was of the view that such steps and the removal of “corrupt” officers from the FBR would help boost the revenue. The revenue target in the fiscal year budget was difficult, but the government would make efforts for it, he added.

The premier vowed that if the country strictly followed its plans then hopefully the upcoming IMF programme would be last in the country’s history and outpace the neighbouring country.

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“We will send 300,000 Pakistani students every year to China to study in the field of technology,” he said and added that the government would expand the scope of information technology in the country.

He mentioned the government’s decision to reduce electricity tariffs for industries to boost the local industry and exports. PM Shehbaz called for ending the difference between the poor and rich to ensure Pakistan achieves the welfare state status.

“We have decided to take measures for agricultural exports and boost the IT sector,” he said. The premier mentioned the record number of foreign remittances received by the central bank in May.

PM Shehbaz added that the educational emergency would “open doors” for talented students in the country.

“Institutions that are the reason for deficit over the years will be privatised,” he reiterated and added that the country would try to establish the “Made in Pakistan” brand in its plan towards progress.

Shehbaz hopeful of not facing obstacles like Nawaz faced

He was hopeful that the country would not have “obstacles” like his elder brother Nawaz faced during his power.

“Those are the enemies who are trying to block investment in the country, looting people, making illegal profits, stealing electricity and tax,” the premier said.

In an apparent reference to the people involved in the May 9 events, he said that those were the enemies of the country who vandalised martyred monuments.

The premier praised low-wage earners, soldiers, “great” political parties, and the working class.

He vowed to spend every amount of the tax money on the people’s benefit and take austerity measures. PM Shehbaz added that the privatisation process would be expedited.

“We will support youth by providing them with skills in the next five years. All these decisions are being taken to make Pakistan a welfare state,” PM Shehbaz said.

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