Painful to revive economy: PM

Says optimistic to see good times ahead for Pakistan Meets
world leaders, businessmen Gets invite from Merkel to visit
Germany Seeks US, UN role to resolve Kashmir dispute

DAVOS: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that reforming an economy which is “sick” is a painful process. Speaking at the Pakistan Breakfast Meet in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday, Imran said his government had done remarkably well during its first year. “In the first year we reduced our current account deficit by 75 per cent, which I think is a great achievement, and this is reflected in the stabilisation of the rupee, the stock market and in foreign investment. “We are headed in the right direction, but struggle lies ahead. However, I am an optimist and I see good times ahead for Pakistan.” Commenting on the shortcomings of previous governments, the prime minister said that in the past, the country neglected its most important asset – its people. “We need to return to making Pakistan an inclusive state [with] inclusive development. Our whole idea is to now become the second government since the 60s to spend money on industrialisation. “We are focusing on promoting industrialisation so that we can create wealth which can then be spent on [uplifting] the bottom tier of society,” he said. Referring to his government’s social welfare measure known as the Ehsaas Programme, Imran said: “We have the most ambitious poverty alleviation programme and, in very difficult times, have allocated Rs190 billion for this endeavour. “My belief is that if we can concentrate on the bottom section of our society, facilitate investors and industrialists while making it easy for them to do business, and improve our governance system, we can release the [untapped] potential of Pakistan.” The prime minister maintained that when he read a blog by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he discovered that there were a lot of similarities between the challengesthe two countries face. “He [Mahathir] had said that the biggest challenge for Malaysia was an entrenched corrupt status quo, the same is with us. We are up against a corrupt status quo which ruled Pakistan for 30 years. They do not want us to succeed because the government succeeding means they will be out of power and end up in jail.” Continuing, the prime minister said that Pakistan’s state institutions were deteriorating. “The first thing that the corrupt do is destroy state institutions because that’s the only way they can make money. That is another big problem we face. But, we are slowly trying to restore them, institution by institution. “Another problem the country faces is the accumulation of huge debts by the previous government. How do you fund health and education after you are left with a small amount [after paying your debts]? “But the biggest challenge is perhaps the energy sector, we have this huge, huge circular debt in electricity. We have decided to get together with stakeholders [to find a solution] because we cannot put more burden on the consumers,” the prime minister said. Commenting on the lessons he learnt from his career as a cricketer, Imran said that playing sports, you learn the most difficult lessons. “However, what I took away was to never lose your head when you are going up and to learn how to face the bad times. “An easy comfortable life is a disaster for potential,” said the prime minister, adding that when he went to the most prestigious cricket academy, the students at the institute had nothing on the boys who would play in the streets. “You need to have the motivation and the hunger.” Giving the example of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, Imran said that when he first envisioned the institute, people had laughed in his face. “Out of a panel of the country’s top 20 doctors, 19 told me that I will never be able to complete this hospital and the remaining one said that you cannot give such expensive treatment to the people free-of-cost. “For 15 years people laughed at me and I was the butt of all jokes in Pakistan. But the bigger the dream, the bigger the struggle.” Prime Minister Imran Khan has stressed the need for dialogue to defuse tensions between the United States (US) and Iran saying any conflict between the two countries would be disastrous for the entire region. “It would be a disaster if this conflict takes place between the US and Iran. Look at Afghanistan. It has almost been 19 years and we are still finding a solution, still trying to get peace talks and ceasefire going, and still people are dying in Afghanistan despite spending trillions of dollars,” he said in an interview to an American TV channel on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Does the US want another conflict,” PM Imran Khan questioned, cautioning that the conflict with Iran would be “much, much more difficult than Afghanistan.” He stressed that people should never rely on a military solution, adding when one uses the military to solve one problem, five more problems spring up. Former president Pervez Musharraf, when he was joining the US war on terror, said it will only span few weeks or maximum two-three months, he recalled, adding, “War is never a solution. People who try to solve issues through bloodshed and war always cause mayhem in the world.” A conflict right now with Iran would be disastrous for developing countries as oil prices will shoot up, counties like Pakistan that are “balancing budgets” will lose everything, and poverty will be on the rise, the premier said. About the Kashmir dispute, PM Imran Khan said India has been taken over by “extremist ideology” that could potentially spill over into armed conflict between the two nuclear rivals. “Kashmir is, you know, it’s a far more serious problem than people realize, (than) the world realizes. The problem is that India has been taken over by an extremist ideology, which is called Hindutva or the RSS,” he said. “This is serious because there are two nuclear-armed countries,” Imran Khan said. “That’s why I want President Trump, head of the most powerful country in the world — he should intervene right now. United Nations, or President Trump through the U.N. at least. “Kashmir is a disputed territory between Pakistan and India,” Khan said. Daughter of the US president, Ivanka Trump met with Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020 summit. In an informal meeting, both the leaders discussed education and training programmes to empower Pakistani women. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bokhari was also present in the meeting. This is the first time that the Pakistani prime minister met President Trump’s daughter. Earlier, World Economic Forum Executive Chairman Dr. Klaus Schwab had called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sides of WEF summit. Talking to the executive chairman, PM Imran had expressed the desire that WEF can partner with Pakistan on important social welfare initiatives for poverty alleviation and education. He had maintained that the issues being highlighted by WEF this year are also relevant to Pakistan. PM Imran had said that his government is focusing on skills’ enhancement for youth as it considers its significant youth population as a driver of economic growth.–Agencies