Benazir Bhutto To Tackle Staggering Economic Woes
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ In her first major address since taking office, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto pledged Wednesday to revive Pakistan’s staggering economy but gave no specifics on how she would carry out the task.
Ms. Bhutto offered a hodgepodge of ideas on economic and social reforms and promised to review a package of tough economic reforms introduced by her predecessor and applauded by international money lenders.
She promised to create jobs, reduce inflation and propel Pakistan into the 21st century as a developed and prosperous nation.
But she offered no details on how she would accomplish this in a country where the average annual income is just $400 and most people are illiterate.
Her predecessor, Moeen Qureshi, a retired World Bank official, introduced sweeping reforms during his caretaker government’s three months in power. He cut government spending, raised taxes, devalued the Pakistani rupee and fattened a thinning foreign reserve account.
But many of his reforms sent the price of basic food items soaring at least 5 to 10 percent.
Ms. Bhutto said she would reverse some of these reforms ″to provide relief for the poor.″
″We will review all those steps taken by the caretaker administration and will continue those that we find useful and review others,″ she said.
However, it’s not clear how much room Ms. Bhutto has to maneuver. She must keep spending down if the country is to receive $1.5 billion in loans that Qureshi secured from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
In a symbolic gesture, Ms. Bhutto said she will keep the finance portfolio and has promised that her Cabinet would have fewer than 12 ministers.
If she keeps that promise, Ms. Bhutto’s government would set new records in Pakistan, where Cabinet posts are often payoffs for support. Previous Cabinets have had as many as 62 ministers.
Ms. Bhutto’s Liberal People’s Party cobbled together a coalition government when no clear winner emerged from the Oct. 6 general elections.
She was sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday. Her party captured two of the country’s four provincial legislatures on Wednesday, including the legislature in Punjab, where more than 60 percent of Pakistan’s 120 million people live.