Asad Umar cites recovery of money sent abroad illegally as govt's top priority

10:05 AM | 21 Aug, 2018
Asad Umar cites recovery of money sent abroad illegally as govt's top priority
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ISLAMABAD - The recently appointed Finance Minister, Asad Umar has expressed that the priority of the new government was to repatriate the huge amount of funds transferred abroad through the illegal practice of money laundering.

Talking to newsmen after first briefing as the minister on Monday, Mr Umar said that nobody, including himself, knew about the exact figure of money stashed abroad, except the $8bn invested in the Dubai real estate market, as stated by the Dubai Real Estate Authority.

They were huge amounts and since we have been talking about this, the first decision of the cabinet under Prime Minister Imran Khan was to constitute a task force, which has been given two weeks to formulate a strategy to repatriate the looted money, said the minister.

Mr Umar said that his predecessor, Ishaq Dar, had stated on the floor of the National Assembly that $200bn had been stashed abroad.

Regarding the fiscal year budget for 2018-19, Umar said that the government would soon decide whether to present a fresh federal budget or come up with some other way to lay out the actual economic situation in parliament.

Responding to a question about the austerity drive and downsizing, the minister said employees would not be laid off but the current staff will be reoriented to improve efficiency.

“We are not going to sack or send home any labour. We are not going to create unemployment,” he asserted.

The finance minister refuted the perception that thousands of labourers hired in the public sector was the cause of the downfall of public sector entities like the Pakistan Steel Mill and Pakistan International Airlines.

There might be people who were not utilised or those who should not have been inducted in the first place, but it was the ineffectual management and the incompetence of past governments that was the cause of the unprofitability of the public sector, Umar clarified.

Mr Umar said that the government has decided in principle to offer bonds and sukuk to expatriates, alleging that the previous government had rolled out an unrealistic budget that had nothing to do with the realities on the ground.

The minister claimed that they will formulate a comprehensive and integrated economic strategy to address all the challenges, adding that the plan to save the economy would involve raising funds by enlisting the help of expatriates.

Earlier in the day, the minister chaired a meeting of senior officials in the finance ministry; he was also briefed on the overall working of the department.