In a recent press conference held in Islamabad on September 8, 2023, Caretaker Energy Minister Muhammad Ali announced that the interim government is poised to make a significant decision regarding the provision of relief in electricity bills, with an expected decision date set for Monday. The ministers addressed the media following the first session of a two-day meeting of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC). During the conference, key members of the caretaker government, including Caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, Commerce Minister Dr. Gohar Ejaz, and Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, provided insights into various aspects of the government’s approach and its commitment to addressing pressing economic issues.
Muhammad Ali, the Energy Minister, emphasized the government’s dedication to addressing critical energy-related concerns. He highlighted efforts to secure oil and gas reserves, essential for sustaining the country’s industries, as Pakistan experiences an annual loss of approximately Rs300 billion in the gas sector. Additionally, discussions regarding the privatization of power distribution companies are underway, while efforts to reduce line losses and attract investment under the SIFC umbrella are in progress.
Shamshad Akhtar, the Finance Minister, underscored the caretaker government’s holistic approach to tackling pressing economic challenges. She emphasized a unified team effort to address these issues, ensuring consistent collaboration across various segments. Shamshad Akhtar also mentioned the institutionalization of subcommittees within the cabinet, such as the Economic Coordination Committee, Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, Cabinet Committee on Privatization, and Cabinet Committee on Energy.
The finance minister highlighted the government’s commitment to enhancing the social safety net and expediting financial inclusion to empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the agriculture sector, and citizens through digitization. She acknowledged that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) had been burdening the exchequer and revealed plans to develop a privatization policy for SOEs to overcome these challenges.
Dr. Gohar Ejaz, the Commerce Minister, discussed the impact of industrial closures and supply chain disruptions on rising prices and inflation. He stressed the need to promote exports to stimulate economic growth and reiterated the importance of industry privatization to keep the economic wheel turning.
In 2022, Pakistan witnessed record imports of $78 billion, while exports stood at $32 billion. Ejaz emphasized that increasing exports would play a crucial role in curbing inflation, especially in a country facing challenges related to smuggling, which the government is actively working to address.
Information Minister Murtaza Solangi highlighted the caretaker government’s commitment to respecting international financial agreements and pledged to implement them faithfully. Regarding the SIFC, Solangi mentioned discussions revolving around measures to reduce government expenditures, circular debt, and the implementation schedule for privatizing certain departments. He also addressed concerns related to the misuse of international agreements.
Solangi noted that the restructuring of the Federal Board of Revenue, efforts to remove impediments to foreign direct investment (including visa policy reforms), and initiatives to improve departmental performance were extensively discussed during the SIFC meeting’s first day.
Traditionally, statements were issued to highlight SIFC’s decisions and discussions. However, Solange announced a shift in communication strategy, with the caretaker government planning to keep the public informed through briefings by relevant ministers.
The primary objectives of SIFC include boosting foreign direct investment (FDI) in sectors such as mining, information technology, and agriculture, thereby contributing to economic growth.
The caretaker government’s forthcoming decision on power bill relief is eagerly anticipated, with expectations set for Monday. The press conference shed light on the government’s comprehensive approach to addressing economic challenges and promoting growth. With discussions on energy, privatization, and economic revitalization, Pakistan’s interim administration is working diligently to pave the way for a more stable and prosperous future.