Finance Minister, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar said here on Monday that it was the PML(N) government which conducted the last census in the country in 1998 and the 6th population census would also be held by the PML(N) government. It would be ensured that the whole process of census is credible to all, he added.

The Minister stated this while addressing International Conference on Population Census being organized by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in coordination with UNFPA.

The Minister went on to say it was in March last year that the Government took the decision to go ahead with the holding of the 6th Census in March 2016. It was also decided that the 1998 model would be followed and the Pakistan Army would be deployed to ensure the security of census men and materials as well as to provide credibility to the data collection operation. He said resources were allocated and made available to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and preparations were on. However, the necessary army strength required for the task could not be made available on the proposed dates due to its commitments in the Zarb-e-Azb operation against terrorists. The issue he said has since been reviewed and it has been decided to postpone the census to a date when the required force could be made available.

Minister said that ever since assuming responsibilities, the present government has fully focused on improving health of the economy. It is imperative to have a correct number of the total population of the country which gives the government the right idea of the economic needs of the people and the resources required to meet them.

Minister Dar giving a brief overview of the economy said the government after assuming responsibilities embarked on a stabilization program and now the country is firmly on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth. All economic indicators have been showing robust growth over the past three years, he added. In the past three years, growth has remained above 4% and during FY2015-16 was recorded at 4.71% which is highest in the previous eight years. Inflation had averaged around 12% during the period FY2008-13 before our government. In the period Jul-May FY2016, the average inflation was recorded at 2.82%, the lowest in a decade. FBR Revenues had recorded an increase of merely 3.38% in FY2012-13 when collections stood at Rs.1,946 billion. For the FY2015-16 a target of Rs.3,104 billion was fixed which was, by the grace of Allah, achieved through a collection of Rs.3,112 billion. Finance Minister said Foreign Exchange Reserves were at a level of $6 billion with the SBP in June 2013, that after payment of past liabilities and swaps were reduced to worrying some level of $2.8 billion. These increased to $18.07 billion by end FY2015-16. Including reserves with commercial banks of $5.01 billion, the reserves stand at level of $23.08 billion which is a new historic record. The Minister said he had no doubt that a firm population number obtained through a transparent census will further support the government’s policies and plans to achieve a sustained growth trajectory.

The Minister stated census is a huge exercise. Presently, the country has over 166,000 census blocks which require posting and training of nearly 200,000 enumerators and supervisors. It has been estimated that the census exercise will cost around Rs 14 billion. This is in addition to the support being provided by country’s development partners, especially the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), who have long supplemented government’s efforts through financial, material and technical support. In order to successfully carry out this exercise, all available resources will have to be mobilized, the Finance Minister remarked.  He congratulated the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) for organizing this conference and bringing together experts and stakeholders from within Pakistan as well as abroad to discuss and share their views on an issue that is of considerable importance for the general public. He thanked all development partners for their continued support to PBS and hoped that the support would continue in future also. He also thanked the foreign delegates for taking time out to visit Pakistan to share their experiences. The efforts of the Statistics Division and the PBS as well as the UNDP to make this conference a success are appreciable, the Minister said.

Earlier, the Chief Statistician Mr. Asif Bajwa in his remarks outlined the history of population census in Pakistan and also briefly touched upon the objectives of holding the international conference. He also apprised the participants about the ongoing preparations for the 6th Population Census.

Country Director, UNFPA, Dr. Hassan Motashami in his address reiterated full support from his organisation in the conduct of Population Census in Pakistan.