Any political crisis to dampen economic growth: Ahsan Iqbal

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Pak hopes to resume talks with India after assembly elections

ISLAMABAD, Jan 25 (APP): Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Professor Ahsan Iqbal Wednesday warned that any political crisis and uncertainty in the country would dampen economic growth momentum achieved by the country.
“Pakistan is in the taking off position, please do not disturb,” the minister remarked while addressing a press conference here to rejoice the recent report by the Transparency International which showed corruption was decreasing in the country.
He warned that any political crisis would be detrimental for the investments coming to various fields.
Ahsan Iqbal said that momentum for growth was going up and if any political crisis was created, the new investments from abroad could lose its significance.
He said that the present government took the economy out of economic crisis of 2013 to new levels of stability, as the foreign exchange reserves had increased three fold from just $8 billion to $24 billion.
Ahsan Iqbal said that due to improvements in governance and introduction of reforms, Pakistan’s ranking by Transparency International moved from one-third bottom-line countries to one-third middle countries.
“Pakistan improved its ranking by nine spots,” he remarked. Pakistan was heading towards inclusion in the top one-third countries of the world in transparency ranking, he added.
He said transparency in governance was evident from the fact that opposition could not take even a single case to the court on charges of corruption.
The minister said that Pakistan in 2013 was declared the most dangerous country by Newsweek magazine as yearly 4000 incidents of terrorism were reported.
He said in 2013, terrorists besieged the state but now the situation was reversed and the terrorists were on the run.
The minister expressed the hope that during the coming two years, six percent growth rate would be achieved.
He was of the view that in order to accommodate youth and generate employment opportunities for two million people every year, the country needed to achieve growth of 6 to 7 percent in years to come.
He warned that if this growth rate was not consistently achieved the demographic dividend of the country would turn into a demographic disaster.
The minister said that Rs one trillion was invested in infrastructure projects to put the country on the road to progress and prosperity.
He said that during the past 66 years, capacity of 17,000 megawatts could only be created while the present government in a short span of three years initiated projects to produce 11,000 megawatts electricity.
The consumers who were braving daily electricity shortages of 16-18 hours in 2013 were now getting power for 18 hours, he mentioned.
He said one million domestic tourists went to northern areas last year which showed that people had disposable income which was reflection of improving health of economy.
World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, Moody’s, Goldman Sachs, JETRO, Nielson and other international institutions acknowledged economic improvement in Pakistan, he noted.
The minister said a Dutch company would be investing $ 400 million to acquire a local food company while French motor company Renault was interested in setting up a car plant.
He said that this was the third and last chance for Pakistan to achieve sustainable growth, adding Pakistan got opportunity in 1960s but missed the goal due to 1965 war. Then another chance was created during 1990s, which again was lost due to political turmoil.
He said that Pakistan was left behind many countries including Malaysia, India and Singapore and even Bangladesh raced ahead in terms of export growth in 2013.
The minister said economic reforms and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were providing impetus to growth. He stressed the need for continuity of policies to achieve a new trajectory of growth.
He said many infrastructure projects which were put in cold storage for years were on track and would be completed in a year or so.
He cited Lowari tunnel, Islamabad airport, Gwadar project, Kacchi canal other projects which would be completed in 2017 or next year.
To a question, Ahsan Iqbal said children of politicians were wary to run businesses in Pakistan because of issue of conflict of interest and undue hue and cry from opposition and sections of media.