The government on Saturday said the claims made by Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif regarding misrepresentation or fudging of growth figures is ‘absolutely baseless’. “There was simply no disagreement between Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and SBP and Finance. Both had asked certain questions as a matter of routine which were effectively and comprehensively responded by the PBS,” a government spokesperson said in a statement. “It is preposterous to suggest that the growth figure has been fudged. The prime minister, during his illustrious cricketing career was the one who advocated, campaigned and finally succeeded in bringing neutral umpires in the game. In the case of PBS, at the very outset, to ensure transparency and non-interference of operational departments, the prime minister placed the PBS under the Planning Commission. Nothing would be more visible a signal of transparency and non-interference than this arrangement,” the statement added. “However, and more importantly, if leader of the opposition had the sagacity to carefully look at the movement four key economic indicators, leading up to the point when the growth numbers were announced, he would not have found any bases to insinuate about their veracity, correctness and credibility,” the statement read. “With nearly four major crops (wheat, rice, maize and sugarcane) registering historic growth; LSM rising at nearly 10% in the first nine months; Services sector had to follow a commensurate growth path and thus it was turned out in the numbers announced by National Accounts Committee (NAC); Tax revenues growing at 16% far above the nominal growth of GDP of 14.8%, thus showing a real growth of about 2%,” the statement further said. “It is to an exceptional credit to Imran Khan’s leadership that he overcame not only the instability he inherited from PML-N government but steadfastly faced the once-in-a-century scourge of Covid-19 and yet has succeeded in achieving a V-shaped recovery, which is remarkable. The housing and construction sector, where PM announced and implemented with personal supervision an incentives package, grew at 8.5% and was among the leading contributors to growth,” the statement read. “It is important to point out at the outset that all economic problems facing the country are a direct result of broken economy bequeathed to PTI after combined mismanagement and destruction wreaked by PPP and PML-N during 2008-2018, which the prime minister justifiably labels as the darkest decade of economy,” the statement read. “They practiced a policy of living beyond means and left the bills for PTI to pay. They kept the exchange rate 30-40% below its market value and thus promoted reckless imports which resulted, in the face of stagnant exports (zero growth in five years) in the highest current account deficit of $20 billion. They made short-term borrowings of more than $10 b to finance the non-essential imports. It was PTI government that had to appeal to Pakistan’s friends to help avert a default in foreign obligations,” the statement further read. “PTI government raised foreign loans only to return the loans they had borrowed and left for PTI government to pay. In three years, PTI government would add only $7 billion, and that too for productive investments, as against $23 billion borrowed by PML-N, and for which few investments are there to show,” it added. “It was again PML N government which kept interest rates much below the core inflation and raised a mountain of short-term borrowings from the SBP that reached a staggering Rs.7 trillion. They thought these borrowings were free money to be expended without a price,” the statement read. “The inflation is a direct consequence of the past excesses committed by the previous government of PPP and PML-N, as we brought the economic variables of exchange rate, interest rate and taxation to the levels required for sustainable growth,” it added. “Additionally, it is also the pressure of imported inflation. The government has succeeded in insulating the people from the vagaries of world inflation in key commodities,” it concluded. Earlier in the day, Federal Energy Minister Hammad Azhar announced that the government is targeting a 4% economic growth for the ongoing fiscal year. Azhar, who was giving an economic outlook at a news conference in Islamabad, said that the government will also expand the social protection programmes in the country to help the low income groups. He said the government has been able to reach this level of growth due to the “prudent economic policies” that were pursued despite the negative impact of Covid-19. “This will not be temporary growth it will be sustained and further strengthened,” he added. The minister said that large scale manufacturing grew by 9% during the first nine months of current fiscal year and Pakistan had made exports worth $3.2 billion in March only. Speaking about the economic recovery, Azhar said that the foreign exchange reserves of the country have reached $23 billion while remittances also grew by 39% in the current year. He said that the cement industry has seen a record production of 17% while better crop prices have benefitted the farmers’ community. Responding to a question, he said the government has a management plan to address the issue of circular debt. He said the previous government ran huge losses due to debts of up to Rs11 billion it raked in to prop up five per cent GDP growth target. The economic and GDP growth will translate into the benefit of a layman, said the minister, noting that despite the fact that internationally prices of wheat and edible oil have surged but Pakistan has been able to not transfer the entire burden of this cost hike to people.