Dar rubbishes talk about seizing dollars from banks

Finance Minister Ishaq on Wednesday said the government would not burden the masses in the wake of any accord reached with the IMF as he told media that his team had a detailed meeting with the global lender on the sidelines of the Geneva conference.

He was also critical of those who misconstrued his recent statement about the foreign reserves and rubbished the claims that the government may confiscate the amount held by commercial banks. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves would improve in the near future, the minister added.

Dar, who was speaking at a conference held in Islamabad by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, said the IMF wanted the government to take fiscal measures and cut back some subsidies. “We have identified some fiscal measures but there will be no burden on the common man. They will be very targeted and categorical,” he assured.

“We all know power sector reforms [are required],” he said and reminded the media representatives that the super tax imposed by the government in June last year had been invalidated by a high court.

The finance minister said the IMF was told that they would recover the amount in a staggered manner. “We will recover it still. We are not changing the fiscal budget target and we will achieve it.”

About the twisting his recent TV interview, Dar said his comment was greatly misconstrued and nothing of the sort will happen.

The latest remarks come days after he said in an interview that Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves stand at $10 billion, a much higher figure than the central bank’s $5.6 billion as of Dec 30, 2022, because “dollars held by commercial banks also belonged to the country”.

It gave rise to fears that the government may confiscate dollars from private banks as had been done in 1998 when Dar was the finance minister.

“In February 1999, when I was the finance minister, we devised a system whereby a substantial amount [of dollars] remain with [private] banks. It was on June 30, 1999 that reserves were broken down into three columns — those with the SBP, commercial banks and total.”

Before 1999, every cent that came into the country was deposited with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and private banks were not allowed to keep dollars, the minister recalled.

“Whenever Pakistan’s reserves are quoted anywhere in the world — a survey or a document — the [total figure] is quoted and then a breakdown is given. I gave a breakdown too,” he added.

The minister said “some people” had worsened the country’s situation to the extent that it had slipped from being the 24th largest economy in 2016 to the 47th.

“Even now, they cannot tolerate any good development. They gave such a twist [to my statement],” he said. “Nothing of that sort will happen. Everything is all worked out … and in order. Nothing to worry about,” he assured, urging those “spreading the rumours” to play a positive national role.

Later, Dar, who is one of the closest aides of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, explained his stance in a series of tweets, asking the people to ignore the “misconstrued, misinterpreted and mala fide propaganda”.

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