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France assures support to Pakistan in meeting economic challenges

PARIS, Oct 26 (NNI): The Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Shaukat Aziz said that for the first time Pakistan has successfully completed the IMF programme and is entering into negotiations for the next three years proramme. He was addressing a Press Conference here this afternoon after his meetings with the French Finance Minister, Laurent Fabius and the President of Paris Club. Jean-Pierre Jouyet.
The Minister said that his talks with the French Finance Minister focused on seeking the support of France of the debt relief from donor agencies and increase in economic assistance from France to help in our social sector development programme covering Education, health and other basic facilities. The debt relief and assistance would help create a fiscal space to support from the government of France to help Pakistan meet the challenges.
Referring to the economic situation after September 11th, the Minister explained the difficulties. Pakistan is facing to stabilize its economy. He mentioned that there has been reduction in revenue because the economic activities throughout the country slowed down. Secondly, the situation also affected the exports, which are equally essential for the revival of our economy as well as industrial development. Besides, he added, the influx of more Afghan refugees has added to our economic burden.
Nevertheless, the Minister said, that he was quite hopeful of a positive response from the international community and the donor agencies since Pakistan is sharing the responsibility of resolving the present crisis. The refugees problem and the reconstruction of Afghanistan is the joint responsibility of the entire international community, he added. The creation of conducive conditions, he said, would in fact facilitate the return of refugees to their homeland.
While elaborating the government’s reform agenda, the Minister explained the salient features of the objectives, which included poverty reduction, jobs reaction and revival of economy. The Minister said the government is committed to meet the challenges and the results achieved so far are quite encouraging. The programme includes introduction of market based economy in which there is less involvement of government in business and commercial ventures. The unnecessary expenditures have been drastically cut down and the social sector development is being supported, as a priority.
In response to a question about the nature of efforts being made for getting relief in debts, the Minister said that negotiations are being held both at bilateral and multilateral level. The response from various quarters was quite encouraging even before September 11th because of our performance vis-à-vis economic targets and our programmes, plans for the social sector development. In the same context, he mentioned the government had been making efforts and is determined to expand the tax base rather than increasing the burden of taxes on the people. It will hopefully generate more revenue than increasing the ratio of taxes.
There was already a broad agreement with various donor agencies, he added, on our policy decisions, which were being appreciated. The situation, which has developed now has created a scenario for Pakistan both political and economic, which required appropriate adjustments in our strategy, which we accordingly developed and it is being followed. –NNI

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