Mohsin Babbar (the POST)
ISLAMABAD: The People’s Rights Movement (PRM) has slammed the new government for continuing to toe the economic policies prescribed by the international financial institutions (IFIs). It has warned that if there is no clean break off with the neo-liberal orthodoxy championed by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), providing economic relief to working people will remain a pipe dream.
Such a practice would make the new government indistinguishable from the previous one and it would soon become deeply unpopular amongst ordinary Pakistanis, said PRM according to a news release issued here Sunday. Zahoor Khan of PRM has said that the government’s recent promise to the WB to cut subsidy on oil reflects just how little sovereignty it actually enjoys. He said that in the past food subsidies have been slashed at the behest of the IFIs and the fallouts were now widely evident with basic food items almost unaffordable for even white-collar salaried families.
He said that for more than 8 years with Shaukat Aziz at the helm of the economy, the IMF, WB and ADB provided more than $10 billion in aid and lauded the government for implementing much needed ‘reforms’. However, Pakistanis were now in severe economic strife because of the policies implemented by the previous government in conjunction with the IFIs, and the new government seems unwilling to break with this disastrous trend.
Zahoor Khan pointed to the ongoing strike of PTCL contract workers as evidence of the failure of IFI-sponsored economic policies saying that privatization of the country’s most profitable enterprise had subjected workers and ordinary people alike to abject deprivation. He said that as the budget session starts every government functionary could be seen saying that relief would be provided to the common man, but prices of essentials continue to soar, employment opportunities are non-existent and an alarmingly large segment of the population remains without access to basic amenities.
He said the budget exercise will be an eye-wash until and unless the government takes the bold step of refusing to service debt which constitutes over 40% of total expenditures. He said until this white elephant is eliminated, along with the reduction in other major non-productive expenditure, defense, Pakistan’s economy will remain a slave to the IFIs and the western capitalist economies. He also added that no loans should be taken from the IFIs in future.
He said that PRM and other progressive political forces will organize a rally on June 5 to demand that radical steps be taken to distinguish this budget from others in the recent past. He said that Katchi Abadi dwellers, workers, political workers and students will be mobilized so that the government is made aware that it cannot afford to lose popular support at this flimsy juncture.
“Working class Pakistanis want the government to resolve the long-standing judge’s issue immediately and then take meaningful steps to reduce their economic misery and the rally on June 5 will make this demand explicit,” he said.