If the Pakistani currency is on a downward spiral (the rupee has weakened to 200 a dollar this week), the country’s total debt has seen an unprecedented jump. According to data released by the central bank, debt worth Rs 23.7 trillion was incurred during the tenure of former prime minister Imran Khan. The nation’s total debt and liabilities increased to Rs 53.5 trillion, a surge of nearly 80%, compared with the statistics before the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came to power. Imran Khan had formed the Debt Commission to probe the reasons for the spike in public debt from Rs 6 trillion in 2008 to Rs 24.5 trillion in 2018, suspecting that debt increased due to corruption by his political opponents – former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. But the PTI government never made the Debt Commission report public. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the PTI government added Rs19.5 trillion to public debt during its three-and-a-half-year stint, which was more than the liabilities accumulated by any government in 75 years. During their previous five-year stints in power, the PML-N added around Rs10 trillion and the PPP Rs 8 trillion to the debt burden. Lower-than-targeted tax collection, steep currency devaluation of around 50%, high interest rates, higher expenditures along with losses by state-owned companies are the reasons for the spike in public debt during Imran Khan’s tenure.
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