Economic manifestos: Pakistani political parties head to polls with focus on inflation, power bills, climate change

Party flags and banners of election candidates from political parties are displayed on a street ahead of Feb. 8 general elections in Karachi on February 2, 2024. (AP)
Party flags and banners of election candidates from political parties are displayed on a street ahead of Feb. 8 general elections in Karachi on February 2, 2024. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 04 February 2024
Follow

Economic manifestos: Pakistani political parties head to polls with focus on inflation, power bills, climate change

Party flags and banners of election candidates from political parties are displayed on a street ahead of Feb. 8 general election
  • Pakistan, a country of over 241m people, is grappling with macro-economic instability due to years of mismanagement
  • Amid election campaigns, political parties recall their past initiatives and promise a better future in in next five years

KARACHI: As Pakistan prepares to go to national elections in less than a week, prominent political parties have issued their manifestos glazed with ambitious blueprints of an economic turnaround, promising to address historic inflation, reduce power tariffs, and initiate reforms in energy and agriculture sectors.

Pakistan, a country of over 241 million people, is grappling with macroeconomic instability stemming from lower gross domestic product, energy shortfall, historic high inflation that continues to bite poor segments of society, weakening currency, low tax collection, and political instability.

Amid the mounting economic challenges, the South Asian nation is scheduled to hold elections on Feb. 8 to elect a new government for a period of five years. With electioneering gaining pace with every passing day, political parties have been recalling their past initiatives and promising a better future at charged public gatherings.

Inflation, electricity bills, exports

In its election manifesto, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, widely regarded as a frontrunner in the elections following the return of its leader Nawaz Sharif from self-exile in London, has promised to bring down inflation from a staggering 29.7 percent in December to a single-digit level.

“By the end of the year 2025, inflation will be in the single-digit, and over the following four years it will be controlled,” the PML-N manifesto reads.

The party has pledged to increase the economic growth rate to 4 percent by the end of 2025, 5 percent by 2026, and over 6 percent growth in the following years consistently.

“A buoyant economy with a higher GDP growth will help absorb new entrants into the workforce, creating over 10 million jobs in the next five years,” the manifesto reads.

Pakistan’s central bank and the International Monetary Fund have projected the South Asian economy to grow by up to 3 percent during the current financial year (July 2023 till June 2024).

Once in power, Sharif’s party claims, it will reduce electricity bills by as much as 30 percent through tariff rationalization, reduced generation costs, eradication of circular debt, and enhanced infrastructure.

The promises come amid a declining tax-to-GDP ratio that stood at 8.5 percent in 2022-23, according to Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, who shared on Tuesday a plan to restructure the country’s tax-collecting agency.

Akthar believes the new structure and measures to broaden the tax base as well as integration of data enhancement and technology would lift the tax-to-GDP ratio to 18 percent by 2029.

However, the PML-N has promised to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio to 13.5 percent by the end of year 2029.

Sharif’s party aims to increase exports to more than $58 billion in the next five years by adopting the right policies and to take remittance inflows to more than $40 billion annually.

“We will try to fully implement the manifesto,” Sharif, who has thrice been the prime minister of Pakistan, promised at its launch late last month.

Climate resilience, energy transition, housing

The Pakistan People’s Party, led by former foreign minister and Bhutto scion Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, has focused on the climate crisis besides inflation, unemployment and poverty in its manifesto, titled, “People’s Charter of the Economy.”

The PPP manifesto states: “We need to completely reform Pakistan’s development priorities and focus on climate resilience, adaptation and energy transition.”

The party has pledged to double incomes for daily wage earners by increasing the minimum wage by 8 percent every year and has promised at least 3 million climate-resilient homes in the name of women heads of the household under its “Housing for the Poor” slogan.

“The poorest households will be given free electricity (for) up to 300 units through solar generation, and this will be funded through carbon credits,” the manifesto reads.

To finance the People’s Charter, the PPP has pledged to do away with 17 federal ministries, expecting the move to save more than Rs328 billion ($1.2 billion).

The PPP has promised to roll back over Rs1500 billion in subsidies available to the elite and to reallocate them to social protection and climate-resilient investments.

Private-sector investments

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has identified low saving rates, debt-driven growth, fiscal unsustainability, reduced productivity and an unfavorable environment for private-sector investments as major issues facing Pakistan’s economy.

It prioritizes long-term economic development and growth driven by productivity gains, private investments, and individual initiatives, according to the party manifesto.

“We believe Pakistan’s major problem is development, so the key objective of our manifesto is to prefer long-term development goals rather than growth,” Muzzamil Aslam, a member of PTI’s economic team, told Arab News.

“The party will prefer productivity growth and export-led growth. We will discourage import-led growth and focus on labor-intensive sectors such as agriculture.”

Human capital, agriculture tax

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, a political party mainly present in Pakistan’s commercial hub of Karachi, believes the “economic condition of Pakistan is very severe.”

Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, the MQM-P chief, told Arab News: “Actually, the economic condition of Pakistan is very severe, but it’s not the crisis of the economy. It’s a crisis of the niyat (intention).”

The party aims to increase remittances to $100 billion by leveraging human capital mobility within the next five years, promising agriculture tax on income no less than Rs4.8 million and land reforms through constitutional amendments.

Vision 2050

The Jamaat-e-Islami religio-political party has prepared a long-term economic plan for Pakistan, known as Vision 2050.

“After coming into power, we will undertake land reforms and tax big landholders,” Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, JI Karachi chief, told Arab News, pledging to reduce energy tariffs to support industrial growth.

“A concrete plan will be made to get rid of the loans of the World Bank, IMF and local banks,” the JI manifesto reads.

Concentration of wealth in ‘few hands’

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, another religious party, has vowed to prevent the concentration of wealth in a “few hands,” eliminate interest-based trade, and modernize the country’s banking system.

The party has promised to fix the monthly salary of laborers at the equivalent of one tola (11.7 grams) of gold, which currently costs around Rs215,500.

The JUI, like other parties, also promised to slash the government’s unnecessary expenditures.


Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
  • Labour, if elected, would recognize Palestinian statehood, says Angela Rayner

LONDON: Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has promised that her party will do everything in its power to ease the suffering in Gaza as it bids to regain Muslim voters’ support, a leaked video surfacing on social media has revealed.

The footage was first reported by the political blog Guido Fawkes, which claimed to have obtained the leaked tape from a meeting in Ashton-under-Lyne, Rayner’s constituency.

The MP is seen appealing to voters upset with the party’s stance on Israel’s assault on Gaza, The Telegraph reported.

Rayner — claiming she worked “day and night” to get three British doctors out of Rafah and is now attempting to secure aid for the enclave — said: “I promise you, the Labour Party, including myself, is doing everything we can, because nobody wants to see what’s happening.”

She acknowledged the party’s current inability to halt the fighting, admitting that Labour’s influence would be “limited,” even if it came to power after July’s general election.

Rayner added: “Only last week the Labour Party were supporting the ICC (International Criminal Court). The Conservatives didn’t support the ICC, so with this general election on that issue, we can’t affect anything when we’re not in government.

“And I’ll be honest with you, if Labour gets into government, we are limited. I will be honest. I’m not going to promise you … because (Joe) Biden, who’s the US (president), who has way more influence, has only got limited influence in that.

“And Qatar, Saudi Arabia, all of these people, we are all working to stop what’s happening at the moment; we want to see that. So I promise you, that’s what we want to see.”

Rayner also promised that, if Labour was elected, the party would recognize Palestinian statehood.

She added: “If Labour gets into power, we will recognize Palestine. I will push not only to recognize … there is nothing to recognize at the moment, sadly. It’s decimated.

“We have to rebuild Palestine; we have to rebuild Gaza. That takes more than just recognizing it.”

Gaza has been a divisive issue for Labour since Oct. 7, with reports revealing that Muslim voters have abandoned the party as a result of what they perceive as its politicians enabling the war.

The Telegraph found that Labour’s support had dropped in local elections in areas with large Muslim populations, including Oldham in Greater Manchester, where the party lost control of the council in a surprise defeat.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has expressed his determination to re-establish trust among those who have abandoned his party due to his handling of the Gaza war.

However, when probed on particular commitments, he remained vague.

Rayner said in the video: “I know that people are angry about what’s happening in the Middle East.

“If my resignation as an MP now would bring a ceasefire, I would do it. I would do it if I could effect change.”

However, she said such an eventuality was not “in my gift” due to the “failure of the international community.”

In response to the footage, Nigel Farage, Reform UK’s honorary president, accused Rayner of “begging” for the Muslim vote, The Telegraph reported.


12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
  • Several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides, and all schools were shut
  • India’s weather office warned of extremely heavy rains in northeastern states on Tuesday

Guwahati: Torrential rains in the wake of a powerful cyclone caused the collapse of a quarry in India’s Mizoram state killing 12 people, government officials said Tuesday.

“So far 12 bodies have been found, we are looking for more,” deputy commissioner of Aizawl district Nazuk Kumar told AFP.

Rescue efforts in the quarry were being hampered by “heavy rains,” police director general Anil Shukla said, NDTV news network reported.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma offered compensation to families of the victims of the “landslide due to Cyclone Remal.”

“I pray for the success of rescue and relief operations and wish a speedy recovery of the injured,” India’s President Droupadi Murmu said on social media.

In Mizoram, several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides. All schools were shut and government employees asked to work from home.

India’s weather office has issued warnings of extremely heavy rainfall across Mizoram and other northeastern states on Tuesday.

In India’s neighboring Assam state, one person was killed and heavy rains had cut the power supply, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a statement.

The cyclone made landfall in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring India on Sunday evening with fierce gales and crashing waves.

Overall, at least 38 people died in the cyclone or storms in its wake.

In India, eight people died in West Bengal state, officials said Tuesday, updating an earlier toll of six, taking the total killed in the country to at least 21.

In neighboring Bangladesh, which bore the brunt of the cyclone that made landfall on Sunday, at least 17 people died, according to the disaster management office and police.


Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
  • Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
  • “We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do”

WARSAW: Poland’s foreign minister says the NATO nation should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and should keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in suspense over whether such a decision would ever be made.
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do,” Sikorski said when asked whether he would send Polish troops to Ukraine.
Sikorski said he has gone to Ukraine with his family to deliver humanitarian aid.
But a spokesperson for Poland’s Defense Ministry, Janusz Sejmej, told Polish media on Tuesday he had “no knowledge of that” when asked about a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine suggesting Poland might send troops to Ukraine.
The idea of sending foreign soldiers to Ukraine, which is battling Russian military aggression, was floated earlier this year in France, but no country, including Poland, has publicly embraced it.
Poland supports neighboring Ukraine politically and by providing military equipment and humanitarian aid.


Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
  • The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia
  • SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The body of a five-month-old baby was found on Tuesday when some 85 migrants heading for Italy from Tunisia were rescued from distress at sea, according to a Reuters witness.
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia two days earlier bound for Italy, according to charity group SOS Humanity.
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted and suffering from seasickness and fuel burns as they were rescued before dawn on Tuesday, the group said in a statement.
Some 185 migrants rescued in separate operations this week, including the stricken boat overnight, were being taken aboard “Humanity 1” to the port of Livorno in northwest Italy. Another 120 migrants were transferred by coast guard boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the southern Mediterranean.
Tunisia is grappling with a migrant crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict further south in Africa as well as the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.
Italy has sought to curb migrant arrivals from Africa, making it harder charity ships to operate in the Mediterranean, limiting the number of rescues they can carry out and often forcing them to make huge detours to bring migrants ashore.


Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia

Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia

Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia
  • “Constant escalation can lead to serious consequences,” Putin told reporters in Tashkent
  • “If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons?“

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West on Tuesday that NATO members in Europe were playing with fire by proposing to let Ukraine use Western weapons to strike deep inside Russia, which he said could trigger a global conflict.
More than two years into the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two, Putin has increasingly spoken of the risk of a much broader global conflict as the West grapples with what to do about the advance of Russian troops in Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Economist that alliance members should let Ukraine strike deep into Russia with Western weapons, a view supported by some NATO members but not by the United States.
“Constant escalation can lead to serious consequences,” Putin told reporters in Tashkent. “If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons?“
“It’s hard to say — do they want a global conflict?“
Putin said Ukrainian strikes on Russia with long-range weapons would need Western satellite, intelligence and military help — so the West would be directly involved. He said sending French troops to Ukraine would be a step toward a global conflict.
Speaking of NATO members in Europe, Putin said that small countries there “should be aware of what they are playing with,” as they had small land areas and very dense populations.
“This is a factor that they should keep in mind before talking about striking deep into Russian territory,” Putin said.

RUSSIAN ADVANCES TRIGGER DEBATE IN WEST
Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine touched off the worst breakdown in relations with the West for 60 years, and the crisis is escalating into what diplomats say is its most dangerous phase to date.
The invasion has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians, driven millions to flee abroad, and reduced neighborhoods and whole cities to rubble.
Russia, which controls 18 percent of Ukraine, is advancing and has opened a new front in the Kharkiv region, triggering a debate in the West about what else it can do after giving Kyiv hundreds of billions of dollars in aid, weapons and intelligence.
Western leaders and Ukraine have played down Russia’s warnings about the risk of a broader war involving Russia, the world’s biggest nuclear power, and NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance led by the United States.
Ukraine says it should be able to hit behind Russian lines, including against Russian sovereign territory, to fight back.
But Russian officials say Moscow’s patience is wearing thin after repeated Ukrainian attacks on Russian cities, oil refineries, and, in recent days, even against elements of its nuclear early warning system.
Asked by Russian state television about the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Putin said the only legitimate authority in Ukraine now was parliament, and that its head should be given power.
Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term due to martial law which was imposed after the invasion.