Rs2bn relief package may be approved today

Published November 8, 2019
The five products — rice, flour, pulses, sugar and edible oil — will be available at 4,000 USC outlets throughout the country. — Dawn/File
The five products — rice, flour, pulses, sugar and edible oil — will be available at 4,000 USC outlets throughout the country. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday asked top officials of the Utility Stores Corpo­ration (USC) to devise a relief package worth approximately Rs2 billion for selling five essential food items on discount across the country, Dawn has learnt from official sources.

The five products — rice, flour, pulses, sugar and edible oil — will be available at 4,000 USC outlets throughout the country.

Presiding over a meeting with his economic team to discuss ways for controlling the prices of essential commodities, the prime minister asked USC officials to work out details of the package by Friday (today).

The visibly disturbed premier held two consecutive meetings on the issue in two days.

“The package is expected to be approved at a meeting on Friday,” a source told Dawn.

Traditionally, the government offers subsidy on essential food items in Ramazan. But, according to the source, the prime minister is genuinely concerned and wants immediate relief.

The source said the prime minister would decide the total amount, mode of payment of subsidy on these products and duration of the scheme. The scheme will also devise some mechanism to allow the use of subsidised items only to genuine consumers and stop its misuse for commercial purposes.

During Thursday’s meeting various proposals were presented to bring prices of flour, ghee, sugar, pulses and rice down.

Communications Min­ister Murad Saeed proposed that besides 4,000 USC outlets, offices of the Pakistan Post in far-flung areas of the country could also be utilised for this purpose. The post offices could be used for selling subsidised essential food items, he suggested.

The prime minister is of the opinion it is the prime responsibility of the government to ensure not only availability of essential items in abundance, but their prices should also be checked. The state has to ensure that no person has to go to bed hungry, Mr Khan said, adding that the government is making all possible efforts to fulfill this responsibility.

Special Assistant to the PM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar presented proposals regarding provision of essential items to low-income and downtrodden people under the Ehsaas Programme.

The premier has already asked for establishment of a ‘Special Cell’ in the Ministry of National Food Security with immediate effect. The cell will take timely decisions about assessment of demand and supply of essential items.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019

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