The PTI government has sacked his second finance minister. Dr Hafeez Shaikh was abruptly removed from his position. Dr Hafeez Shaikh was appointed an advisor to PM Imran Khan after the removal of Asad Umar as finance minister in 2019. Minister industries Hammad Azhar has been handed over the responsibility of finance ministry.
It seems that PTI government is scapegoating the former finance minister for the failure of overall economic policies. The PTI government wants to simply shift the burden of failure on to the shoulders of sacked minister. The same was done when Asad Umar was removed as finance minister. Asad Umar was also removed the way the government has shown the door to Dr Hafeez Shaikh.
The abrupt removal of Dr Hafeez Shaikh has raised many questions. Many eye brows been raised the way he was removed. He was not given opportunity to resign graciously, instead he was removed unceremoniously. It was clear that he will not be able to continue as finance minister beyond June 02.
The Prime Minister Imran Khan could have asked him to resign after the defeat in senate elections. But PM asked Dr Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after losing senate elections against Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. That was the appropriate time to render his resignation in a respectful way. But he missed that opportunity. He was expecting to continue performing his duties till June. But he was shown the door before the completion of six month period under the constitution.
This election, as it turned out, was a do-or-die one for Mr Sheikh. As adviser on finance, he had been barred by the decision of the Islamabad High Court to chair important forums such as the National Finance Commission and the Economic Coordination Committee. The court in its decision had declared that unelected advisers could not perform executive functions and head ministries.
To bypass this restriction, the government had made Mr Sheikh a minister through an ordinance. However, the ordinance was set to lapse in June, which meant that either he had to get elected before that, or pack his bags. PTI government was confident for his victory in senate elections. But shocking defeat forced him to pack his bags.
Government spokespersons were quick to say that Mr Sheikh had been sent packing because he could not control the spiraling inflation in the country. It is really strange argument. If government considered him responsible for the rising inflation then why he was given senate ticket and PM Imran Khan himself campaigned for Dr Hafeez Shaikh.
The matter of fact is that his defeat in the senate elections is the main reason of his departure. In case of his victory, he could have been continuing as finance ministry despite having the high inflation.
In my view inflation is not the main reason of Dr Hafeez Shaikh’s departure. I am saying that because when Pakistan had the highest inflation in the beginning of 2020, he was not sacked. He continues to work as finance minister. Inflation remained high during the two and half years of PTI rule so far.
The government continues to live in dream world away from reality. The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is not ready to accept the simple fact that high inflation in the country is the result of economic policies implemented by the government. The government is not ready to accept the failure of its economic policies. The economic problems faced by the people of Pakistan are the direct result of economic policies persuaded by the PTI government.
The IMF dictated neoliberal economic policies are causing high inflation. When the government increases prices of electricity, gas and petrol on regular basis, it contributes to the rising inflation and price hike. The cost of production continues to rise. As the result, the cost of living is also rising and causing problems to ordinary people.
The government is using the taxation on electricity and petrol to generate more revenue. New taxes have been imposed. These policies are the main reason of the current situation.
A government spokesman said the prime minister has decided to bring in a new finance team to deal with the spiraling inflation. According to him, the new finance minister will take forward the prime minister’s ‘pro-poor vision’. But what is the prime minister’s economic vision that the recently dismissed finance minister failed to implement?
Not long ago, the government was gloating over the ‘successes of its economic policies. The nation was frequently reminded that the economy had come out of the mess created by previous governments and was taking off, though the situation on the ground remained precarious.
Some media reports suggest it was differences over the economic policy framework with the prime minister that cost Sheikh his job. The prime minister’s voodoo economic vision built on ideas and priorities ill-suited to modern times seems to have contributed to the slowdown of the economy and the failure to contain inflation.
The overall economic performance of PTI government is below the expectations. Despite the claims of economic recovery and putting the economy on right path- the economic outlook remains dismal. The prime minister’s so-called pro-poor policies defy the concept of a welfare state in the modern world. Opening shelter homes and free meals will not reduce poverty.
Indeed, runaway inflation has been the most serious problem faced by the government. But the price hike has not happened in the past few weeks for the prime minister to take such drastic action. The sacking of the finance minister is not going to solve the problem that is linked to a broader governance and policies issue.
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