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In his maiden address to nation, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan highlights problems

People watch a televised address of Pakistan's newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan at an electronic shop in Karachi on Sunday.

People watch a televised address of Pakistan's newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan at an electronic shop in Karachi on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: AP

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday lashed out at the previous PML(N) government for current debt crisis which has risen to Rs 28 trillion, saying the country had not been as indebted in its entire history as it has been in the last ten years.

In his maiden address to the nation a day after his swearing in as the country’s 22nd Prime Minister, Mr. Khan identified Pakistan’s challenges on economic front, deficiencies in the health-care sector and other issues grappling the country.

Outlined his governments approach to resolve the issues, Mr. Khan stressed on taking austerity measures, working on tax reforms instead of taking loans, rooting out corruption.

He also spoke about revamping the judiciary, educational and health care reforms, civil service reforms, devolution of power, providing jobs opportunity to youths and building dams to end water crisis.

“Never in Pakistan’s history have we faced such difficult economic circumstances. Our debt burden is Rs 28 trillion. We haven’t been as indebted in our entire history as we have been in the last ten years,” he said.

“The interest that we have to pay on our debt has reached to a level that we have to take more debt to repay our obligations. Our external debt obligations have reached a level that we have to contemplate how we are going to grapple with them,” Mr. Khan said.

“On one hand we are so indebted, and on the other hand our human development index ranking is very poor,” he said.

Pointing out the deficiencies in the health-care sector, he said that at present Pakistan is among the five such countries where infant mortality is highest due to use of contaminated water.

“We have the highest rates of mortality for pregnant women. We are unfortunately one of the countries that suffer from the highest incidences of stunting in children. We are talking about 45 per cent of this nation’s children,” he said.

“They are not getting proper nutrition. They are not developing properly. They are automatically left behind. What must their parents go through seeing their children in such a state?” he added.

He called up on people of Pakistan to team up with him to eradicate poverty, improve health-care system, provide proper nutrition to children.

“We have two paths ahead of us: one is the path we have taken so far - indebtedness, poverty, no funds to help our most vulnerable.

The Prime Minister pointed out the difference between the growing lifestyles of the rich and the poor, and hinted that he would adopt an austere style of governance.

Mr. Khan also said he will not be staying in the sprawling Prime Minister House but in the military secretary’s three-bedroom house.

Announcing austerity measures to cut down his own as well as the country’s expenditure, he said that he wanted to live in his own house in Banigala “but was told by security agencies that my life was under threat which is why I am living here”.

He said that the prime minister house has 524 servants and 80 cars.

“The prime minister, which is me, also has 33 bulletproof cars. We have helicopters and aeroplanes to fly us. We have massive governor houses and every conceivable luxury.

“On one hand we don’t have money to spend on our people; on the other hand, we have a section of our people living like our colonial masters used to live,” he said.

“Look at how much money is spent by prime ministers on foreign tours? Where do these people spend Rs 650 million? Where does the speaker spend the Rs 160 million budget allotted to him? Are they going abroad to conquer land?” Khan said.

Detailing about the austerity measures, he said “I will keep two people with me out of the 524 and government would auction off all the other bullet proof cars and invite businesses to come and buy them.

“We will put the proceeds of that auction in the state treasury,” he added.

He said I wish that all the governor houses are kept as simply as possible.

Khan said that he wished that the PM House be turned into a research university, he will form a committee to figure out how to cut expenses nationwide.

“I also want you to understand that the money we lavish on ourselves could have been spent on those who our state has left behind. ‘Naya’ Pakistan also requires a new ‘soch’ (thinking). We have to think about those who we have left behind,” he said.

On tax reforms, he said instead of trying to rebuild the economy by taking external loans, his government will try and fulfil its needs from within.

“No country can succeed by taking on debt again and again. Debts are taken for brief periods of time. I will be ashamed to go abroad and ask for money. If the leader of the nation has to go and ask for debt, what will my nation be?” Khan added.

He said only 800,000 people out of 200 million pay taxes in Pakistan.

“We will fix the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and assure the nation that I will be responsible for your taxes. It is your responsibility to pay taxes. If we start paying taxes we will get out of deficit,” he said.

He termed money laundering as the biggest problem.

Mr. Khan asked the overseas Pakistanis to deposit money in Pakistan’s bank and sent remittance through banks.

The prime minister stressed on the need give a boost to exports, saying he has made a business advisory council to help address the challenges of export industries.

He said that no one thought of the water crisis.

Mr. Khan also stressed on improving the standard in government hospitals, and said a health card would introduced across Pakistan.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 10:05:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/in-his-maiden-address-to-nation-pakistan-prime-minister-imran-khan-highlights-problems/article24733239.ece

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