ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday said with focus on socio-economic uplift of the poor and a corruption-free society, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government during its first 100 days had set a direction to turn around the country’s economy through effective policy initiatives in diverse areas. “During the first 100 days of government, we have made every effort to follow the model of the State of Madina and the footsteps of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), Who pursued compassionate and people-centric policies,” he said while addressing a ceremony here at the Convention Center to mark the first 100 days of the PTI government.The prime minister during his address spoke at length on various policy measures his government had taken so far to put the country on the right track in the areas of health, education, agriculture, business and industry, poverty alleviation, and curbing corruption and money laundering. He announced that he would soon launch the Poverty Alleviation Authority (PAA), which he would himself head, and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Zakat and Ushr Department, Baitul Maal and other such institutions will come under it.The authority, he added, would make overall supervision of various poverty reduction programmes to cater to the needs of the poor in housing, education, health and other areas. The prime minister said the federal government had already allocated an amount of Rs 5 billion for the Akhuwat Foundation for provision of shelter to the homeless poor people. The prime minister said in order to check the current 43% stunted growth in the country, the government, after completing a pilot project during its first 100 days, had now decided to feed 4 million children of under three years age, which would bring the ratio down to 30% by the next five years. He said the major causes of poverty were illiteracy, inabilities and lack of capabilities, and the government was identifying the problems and would come up with a special programme in this regard.Imran Khan said in order to check poverty in rural areas, the government would provide subsidies to small farmers for the acquisition of modern technical equipment like laser levelers so as to help augment their per acre agricultural produce. Besides improving the lot of poor farmers, it would also help the country curtail its imports through crop substitution like oilseeds, he added. Similarly, the prime minister said, Pakistan had tremendous potential in livestock and the export of halal meat. For the purpose, the government would provide finances to the farmers to feed the calf which was a source of halal meat and the initiative will benefit 300,000 to 400,000 poor families. He said the government would also establish special zones to save the livestock animals from foot and mouth diseases through vaccination so that halal and good quality meat could be exported to China, the Middle East and other countries. The prime minister also mentioned the huge potential of fisheries sector in Pakistan and said since the country had 1000 kilometers of coastline as well as large water logged areas, the government would encourage and promote fish farming, caged farming and shrimp farming in the country.The prime minister said the government will encourage the womenfolk in rural areas to raise poultry, adding that the government will establish agricultural markets in various cities to save farmers from exploitation of middleman and enable them get best price of their produce. The first agricultural market would be established in Lahore very soon, he added. Imran Khan said for extra availability and conservation of water for agricultural purposes, the government would spend Rs 140 billion for the lining of water courses and encourage the use of modern technology in agricultural farming.He said the bureaucrats and the political class needed to change the mindset to attract investors by giving them incentives and ensuring financial gains for them. With a 30 million population, the exports of Malaysia stand at $220 billion as against Pakistan which in spite of having 210 million population was earning mere $24 billion through exports per annum.The prime minister termed ‘unfortunate’ the policy of nationalization in the 1970s when the country was moving up in terms of economic development. He underlined four areas of focus, including exports augmentation, attracting investment and ensuring legal channel for remittances to turn around the country’s economy and reducing its dependence of international financial institutions.Imran Khan said his government was helping the industrial sector to enhance the country’s exports through low electricity and gas tariff, and make the products competitive in international market as against those of India and Bangladesh. Similarly, he said, the government had focused on ease of doing business during the first 100 days so as to attract local and foreign investors, and now the foreign investors were coming and showing their interest.The prime minister said since 120 million out of 210 million population of Pakistan was under 35 years of age, it was one of the major factors behind attracting the foreign investors to the country, which was strategically located and rich in natural resources, besides having huge potential in various areas of economy. He said the current per annum foreign remittance of $12 billion could be taken to $20 billion by ensuring legal banking channels.Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government was focusing on reforming the system to broaden the tax net and save the common taxpayers from extra burden through indirect taxation. He wondered over how only 72,000 people out of the 210 million population were showing their monthly income over Rs 200,000. “We have to bring the rich into the tax net to save the poor from extra burden.” The prime minister said the government was also taking measures to check smuggling so as to protect the local industry and investors.The government was working on the promotion of tourism in the coastal and hilly areas as well as religious tourism, he said, adding Malaysia was earning $20 billion per annum through tourism alone. He said besides attracting Hindu and Sikh communities in religious tourism, Pakistan could also attract the people from Budh community as there was a 40-feet rare sleeping Budha in Haripur district. He said with the highest mountain peaks in beautiful and scenic Northern Areas, Pakistan had huge potential of tourism on which the government was working. “We will also promote eco-tourism.”The prime minister said the government was also working on legal reforms for speedy justice for the common man, particularly widows and women, ensuring that they get their just rights in the inheritance. In this respect, he said, the Legal Aid Authority would be established under which the poor and those having no resources to hire a lawyer would be provided with the state counsel to fight their cases in courts. Similarly, he said, the overseas Pakistanis would be assisted in securing their property and lands in Pakistan from land mafias. The prime minister said the government was bringing the Whistle Blower Act to identify corruption. Under the law, the person, who would identify the corruption, would get 20% of the recovered ill-gotten money, he added.The prime minister said Pakistan despite being rich in resources lagged behind due to corruption, which had damaged the national institutions. Lamenting on the policies of past leaderships, he said they had damaged state institutions for their personal gains. “Until corruption is not controlled, Pakistan has no future,” he said, adding the present government was not responsible whatever the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was doing about corruption.He, however, said there was a dire need of strengthening the NAB as its conviction rate was just seven percent as compared to 90 percent in Malaysia. NAB has been concentrating just on plea bargains, which is no solution to control corruption. The institution should make its performance better, he added.The prime minister said the government during its first 100 days had established the Asset Recovery Unit to exchange information with foreign countries regarding money laundering. In this regard, it has signed agreements with 26 countries, including Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).According to initial information shared by the countries, the prime minister said, Pakistanis have stashed $11 billion in just 26 states. Only in the UAE, Pakistanis have purchased properties worth $9 billion but the authorities there were not providing information regarding the Iqama holders. In the past even the prime minister, foreign minister and influential people got Iqamas (residential permits) from the UAE, he added.The prime minister said only those people were seeing democracy in danger whose drivers had got properties in Dubai. He said it was the first government which had put a heavy hand on corruption and money laundering as the FIA had so far traced fake accounts with transactions of Rs 375 billion. On one hand the looted money was siphoned off to foreign countries while on the other Pakistan was paying per day interest of Rs 6 billion on the loans it had obtained from the lending agencies, he lamented.The prime minister said operation against land mafia and encroachers had started across the country. Only the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had retrieved land worth Rs 375 billion from the illegal occupants and grabbers. Such kind of operations were also going on in Lahore, Karachi and other cities, he added.Imran Khan said water was the country’s biggest issue and the government had come up with water conservation techniques. About Rs 140 billion would be spent on pavement of 70,000 canals and ravines, which would help save more water than stored at the Diamir Bhasha Dam.“For achieving all these things, we will have to change our mindset,” the prime minister said. A pro-active approach would have to be adopted by bureaucracy.For increasing exports, he said, the government had given various incentives, including reducing prices of electricity and gas, to industrialists, which would provide a competitive environment to them in international markets. He said the government would provide ease of doing business to foreign and local investors to attract more investment in the country. Various schemes were being launched for overseas Pakistanis to attract more remittances in the country, he added.Next priority area for the government, he said, was reforms in the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue), which would increase tax ratio in the country.Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was fully aware of the financial problems being faced by the country’s salaried and low income class due to depreciation of rupee and assured he was striving hard to give them relief through austerity measures in various ministries and divisions. He said he had succeeded in saving Rs 150 million in the PM House expenditures so far with the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa governor also saving an amount of Rs 130 million. The prime minister said some politicians were ridiculing the austerity measures like selling buffaloes of the PM House. “At one side poor people are dying, and on the other we spend money from public exchequer. We have to be answerable to Allah hereafter.”He said the main reason behind inflation and price hike was unprecedented rise in the country’s debt, which went up to Rs 30,000 billion from Rs 6,000 billion during the last 10 years of previous governments.The prime minister assured the nation of taking every step to take the country forward and strengthen its people and economy, bring in investment and check corruption, which hindered investment.He described the oversees Pakistanis as the country’s ‘biggest strength’ and said 900,000 oversees Pakistanis as well as foreign investors would be attracted to bring in their skills and investment through various investment-friendly measures and ease of doing of business.The prime minister said the government was also working legal measures to ensure the provision of mortgage facilities to people under the five million housing programme, which would give a boost to economic growth and help create employment opportunities through revival of 40 allied industries.He said with 80% mortgage facility of housing in the United States, followed by 30% in Malaysia and 10% in India, Pakistan had a mere 0.2% in mortgage housing.Published in Daily Times, November 30th 2018.