Civil society urges lender agencies to cancel debt

The demand "drop debt not health" was made by TheNetwork for Consumer Protection, saying that as per last year's calculation, the annual debt repayment amount is a whopping Rs1,799.31 billion (the US $ 10.7 billion). If canceled, it will give much-needed financial cushion to the Pakistani economy to mitigate lingering COVID-19 effects on the poor persons' lives.

TheNetwork is part of Oxfam supported Tax Justice Coalition comprising more than 50 rights based organizations spread all over Pakistan. The seminar was organized at the Riphah Institute of Public Policy, Riphah International University.

Pakistan's economy has been badly hit due to lock-down and global economic slowdown. Economic growth in Pakistan is projected to be minus -2.2 to -1.2 in 2020, 0.3 to 0.9 in 2021, and 3.2 to 3.3 in 2022. This will further affect overall government performance and poverty alleviation.

The government's reports show that at the close of the fiscal year 2019-20, Pakistan's total debt and liabilities stood at Rs44,563.9 billion (US $265 billion). While the GDP was Rs41,726.7 billion (the US $248.1 billion), which means the debt and liabilities were 106.8 percent of GDP.

Nadeem Iqbal, TheNetwork CEO said, "when COVID crisis hit in early March, it was obvious that given its fiscal constraints Pakistan will not be able to protect the health of its citizens as well as livelihood. Many million people were unemployed due to lock down and the health system faced a chronic financing gap. Due to these reasons, the prime minister of Pakistan since the very start of the pandemic related crisis appealed for debt relief. However, this went on deaf ears. If total external debt liabilities in December 2019 are divided by a population of 211.17 million, per capita debt is the US $ 524.31 or Rs. 88,172."<br>

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