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November 5, 1999
Pak preparing new economic road map
Pakistan's new military-led government is working ''with a sense of urgency'' to chart a road map by the year-end to revive its flagging economy, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz said today.
The newly-appointed minister told reporters after a speech to economists that work on the plan was in progress but he declined to give any details.
''We are working with a sense of urgency, and working very hard to get it done quickly,'' said Aziz, a former Citibank executive who took office only four days ago.
''Our deadline is the year-end, probably we will finish it before that,'' he said.
Aziz would not say if the new plan would replace a five-year development plan by former prime minister Nawaz Sharief's government, which was ousted by a military coup on October 12, or what period would it cover.
''But I think this will probably be the over-arching document which will provide a road map and that's an important phrase for the future economic development of the country,'' he said.
Aziz said the government would consult people from various segments of the society, such as economists, traders and agriculturists, in preparing the new plan.
He said the plan would basically be ''home-grown.'' But, in an apparent reference to donor agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, he said Pakistan would seek useful advice from other quarters as well.
''We want to share, and we really want it to be home-grown because we believe we understand our situation better than anybody else,'' Aziz said. ''At the same time we will seek advice from anybody we think will add value to the process. We are not paranoid about seeking advice.''
In his speech, Aziz cited a lack of investors confidence, foreign debt of over 32 billion dollars, a yawning fiscal deficit, stagnant exports, low domestic savings and poverty as some of the important challenges.
Aziz's speech reflected the priorities of military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, who has said a crackdown on corruption and steering the economy out of its doldrums are the key tasks.
Donor states, alarmed by Gen Musharraf's failure to set a timetable for a return to democratic politics, have said they will take a wait-and-see stance on backing for IMF and other loan programmes.
A 1.56 billion dollars IMF loan plan has been on hold since the last days of the Sharief government because of Pakistan's economic performance.
Donor states have said they are undecided about whether to continue backing the IMF and other programmes and are waiting to see the policies Gen Musharraf intends to use first.
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