Responding to the opposition’s concerns over growth rate in the country, Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin Saturday said that country’s growth dropped from 2% to negative figure due to Covid-19, adding that the pandemic affected the whole world and not only Pakistan. “Except China, the growth dropped all over the world, including India’s by 11% negative and Bangladesh’s by 6.5% negative,” he informed the National Assembly session chaired by Deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri. “We plan to boost growth rate to 5% by next year,” he maintained. Talking about the loans obtained by the incumbent government, he said Rs 156 billion trade deficit was inherited by this government from the previous government. “It is because of flawed economic policies of the previous government … I am talking on the basis of substantial evidence,” he remarked, and added that the PTI government inherited Rs 20 billion circular debt which it is trying its best to rectify. The finance minister recalled that due to artificial sustainability of dollar rate in 2015-16, Pakistan’s exports dropped which resulted in an increase in trade deficit. He further stated that the strategic planning, which had never been done in the previous governments, has started this year for the first time in the country’s history. He explained that the government has set Rs 5.8 trillion revenue target for the FY22, which is a sign of the government’s aggressive economic policy. The minister said the government has collected Rs 4.1 trillion revenues in the first 11 months and hoped that by the end of current fiscal year (2020-21), the revenue collection would increase up to 4.7 trillion. He said that the government has decided to introduce the ‘Universal Self-Assessment’ for engaging a third-party approach to conduct the audit of 15 million potential taxpayers. He said the government has collected the information of these people from their electricity and other utility bills. In his speech, lawmaker Abdul Qadir Patel criticized the PTI government on its economic policies, including the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and the budget for 2021-22. “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a blessing for the government because it did not have to pay the debts,” Patel said, accusing the government of blackmailing the NAB chairman and not having a fair audit. “I have proof that the NAB chairman is being blackmailed,” the PPP lawmaker said, asking the NAB what action it had taken against Dr Zafar Mirza (former SAPM) over the alleged corruption in Covid-19 vaccines and supply of masks. About repeated reshuffles in the federal cabinet by Prime Minister Imran Khan since 2018, the lawmaker termed it a game of musical chairs. He said the government has itself admitted that the prime minister removed the ministers from their positions because of corruption allegations and poor performance. “It’s very surprising that the dishonest and corrupt in one ministry was declared clean-handed in another,” he said, and slammed the government for not taking any action other than shuffling the ministers. Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said the opposition wants NRO but government has taken firm action against corrupt elements and recoveries of Rs 1 trillion have been made from different mafias, including the land mafia. The government is strengthening the institutions including those related to national security, he said. “The government has strengthened the economy despite Covid-19,” he said, adding that cash assistance was directly disbursed to the poor people in all the provinces under Ehsaas program after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. Babar Awan said the budget for next fiscal year envisages allocations that will also enable the poor in the rural areas to build houses. He said houses and flats are being constructed across country under Naya Pakistan Housing Authority. He further stated that it goes to the credit of Prime Minister Imran Khan for leading the austerity drive.