Pakistan is facing economic woes due to 'fiscal mismanagement': General Bajwa

PTI Islamabad, Islamabad, Pakistan Jun 28, 2019, 09.10 PM(IST)

File photo of Pakistan army chief Qamar Bajwa. Photograph:( ANI )

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Pakistan's military, in a rare move, early this month decided to voluntarily cut the defence budget for the next fiscal year and assured the nation that there would be no impact to its "response potential" due to the voluntary cut in the budget

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa Friday blamed "fiscal mismanagement" for the country's economic crisis, days after he was made a member of a new panel set up to stabilise the economy.

Addressing a seminar on "Pakistan's Economy: Challenges and Way forward" at the National Defence University (NDU), he said the armed forces played their part by voluntarily foregoing annual increase in defence budget and it was not the only step they were taking the improvement of the economy.

Pakistan's Parliament on Thursday unanimously approved the Rs 1,150 billion defence budget for the next fiscal (2019-20). 

In a move that would further expand the Pakistan Army's influence, General Bajwa was made a member of the newly-formed National Development Council headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week.

Pakistan's military, in a rare move, early this month decided to voluntarily cut the defence budget for the next fiscal year and assured the nation that there would be no impact to its "response potential" due to the voluntary cut in the budget.

"We are going through difficult economic situation due to fiscal mismanagement. We have been shying of taking difficult decisions," the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) said at the seminar organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA). 

Speaking about the current economic situation, he said that it was due to failure to take difficult decisions.

"We understand that the government has gone for difficult but quintessential decisions for long term benefits and what we are doing is playing our part. We all need to fulfil our responsibilities in this regard so that these difficult initiatives succeed," he said.

Cash-strapped Pakistan is to launch an austerity drive from next month to solve the financial woes. 

Gen Bajwa said that there were examples in recent past when other countries also faced similar challenges and they came out successfully after taking difficult decisions. 

He said Pakistan would also wade through these challenges.

"In difficult times no individual alone can succeed unless nation comes together unitedly. It is time to be a nation," he added.

Gen Bajwa said that the sovereignty of a country was linked to its economic progress, as there was undeniable linkage between security and economy as both directly complement each other.

He also highlighted Pakistan's efforts for restoring regional peace as it would lead to better trade connectivity.

Speaking about the regional connectivity Gen Bajwa said that "countries cannot develop individually, it is the region which develops".

"For our region to develop we need to have greater regional connectivity amongst all neighbours," he said.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Abdul Hafeez Shaikh counted perpetual security threats, inconsistent economic policies, poor economic discipline and lack of will to take difficult decisions in the past as major contributors for the present economic situation that the government was facing today. 

Pakistan in 2018 was the 20th biggest military spender in the world with an expenditure of US $11.4 billion, a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in April.

Prime Minister Khan's government has negotiated a US $6 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund to overcome the financial woes facing the country.

The government's budget focused on austerity, growth and tax collection.