Speaking at the inaugural session of the International Chambers Summit 2022 in Islamabad on January 11, 2022, Pakistan PM Imran Khan claimed that the country’s economic condition, under his government, was better than many other countries in the region, particularly India. The comment was made ahead of the Pakistan government’s efforts to pass a finance bill to meet the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requirements. If cleared, Pakistan will secure a bailout package of $1 billion.
As per the Times of India report, Imran Khan said, “Pakistan is still one of the cheapest countries compared to many countries in the world. They (opposition) call us incompetent, but the fact is that our government has saved the nation from all crises.” The summit was organised by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI). Among other things Khan also commented on Pakistan’s cheap oil prices when compared to other countries.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader’s comment comes amidst reports of the country’s economic turmoil. According to a report released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Pakistan in December 2021, the Pakistani government has almost doubled the country’s external debt in the last three years. The government took a record loan of $10.45 billion and further took new foreign loans worth $15.32 billion in the fiscal year 2020-21. This took the total figure to an astonishing $85.6 billion. As per the Express Tribune, the new debt was added “to mitigate the pressure on the current account deficit, strengthen foreign exchange reserves, enhance external debt servicing capacity and provide requisite financing to water sector development”.
However, on January 7, 2022, Imran Khan stated that Pakistan’s economy is expected to grow at above 4 percent despite taking power during the worst balance of payments crisis in the history of Pakistan in 2018, economic impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, high commodity prices in the global market, and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan having a direct and indirect impact on Pakistan. Khan made the statement while he chaired a meeting of the Macro Economic Advisory Group that consisted of senior members of the team.
The controversial finance bill was debated at the National Assembly on January 11, 2022, where the Pakistan Muslim League (N) president and the Leader of the Opposition, Shahbaz Sharif, warned of a protest in the house and on the roads if the government continued to proceed with the bill. Sharif said, “They are selling out Pakistan’s economy and freedom for $1 billion.” He further alleged that the ruling party had drowned the country’s economy and was also endangering its security.