LAHORE - All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran secretary general Naeem Mir has urged the provinces to announce surplus budgets as their deficit budgets have been one of the major reasons behind the government’s failure to contain fiscal deficit. He warned the govt against politicizing of the budget ahead of elections by presenting such schemes which could never be implemented.

In an interview with The Nation, he said that all the developed countries accord special importance to economic issues and the challenges. But in Pakistan the situation is the other way round and the trade and economy is on the bottom of government to-do list. He said key issues including power shortage circular debt, huge internal and external loans, poor infrastructure, law and order situation and other vital factors, should be addressed on priority basis to improve the bleak foreign investment condition to put the country on track of economic growth and development.

He said that Pakistan’s economy could be turned around in three years time: “There is no dearth of competent people here, we only require honest and patriotic leadership”.

He said that govt should take opposition into confidence; ensure consistency and continuity in policies; accelerate the pace of privatization of all public sector enterprises in a transparent manner to generate revenue.

Demanding the govt of a clear cut road map for end of circular debt, he emphasized on energy reforms, saying that raising power tariff was no solution to circular debt or power crisis.

APAT secretary general expressed deep concern over 65 percent decline in Foreign Direct Investment and Portfolio Investment in the last nine months (July-March 2011-2012 period) mainly due to lack of rule of law, urging the government to tackle it on urgent basis through a comprehensive policy approach by involving trade and industry in the country.

He said that severest-ever energy shortfall, unclear economic policies, a serious law and order situation and institutional fragility were the major factors keeping the foreign investors away.

He said Pakistan’s total public debt including both the external and domestic, continued to swell by 29.2 per cent to Rs6 trillion during the current financial year ending June 30, 2012.

He said that a sum of Rs1,726 billion does not include over $60 billion external liabilities in the shape of IMF’s loan repayment; if this outstanding part is included Pakistan’s debt to GDP ratio, it crosses 61 per cent of the GDP.

He said that if the country is losing charm for foreign investors then the government would have to take extraordinary measures to avoid its effects on local investors and country’s economic growth.

At the same time, he said, the slow government response to deal with aggravating energy crisis was also spoiling not only the local investment scenario but also sending a very negative signal to potential foreign investors.

He said that Pakistan’s investment rate was only 13.4 percent at end of last fiscal year, which was lowest since FY74. The low saving rate, coupled with wary foreign investors led to record low investment rate in the country.