LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday admitted his government’s failure to keep the prices of sugar and wheat flour in check, but in the same breath promised that people involved in making a fast buck would be taken to task.
“An investigation has been launched into the hike in prices of the two essential commodities and information about the ‘profiteers’ has begun pouring in,” he said.
Mr Khan was addressing his party’s members and officials from the provincial bureaucracy at a ceremony held at the Governor House to distribute Sehat Insaf Cards among some beneficiaries.
Mr Khan said he was busy in putting systems in place that would promptly inform the government of any essential commodity’s shortage, allowing the government to take appropriate measures in a timely manner.
The rotten and broken systems would be replaced by efficient ones, the premier said, but added a mafia was creating hurdles in the way of reforms. He, however, did not identify the people who constituted this “mafia”.
Says health sector will see revolutionary changes soon
“All hurdles will be removed and a just system will be in place soon,” said Mr Khan. “Only with a proper system of carrot and stick in place, will this country make progress by leaps and bounds and be taken seriously by the world.”
He was of the opinion that the green passport had begun earning respect in a short period of only 18 months. “People from other countries will come to Pakistan to find jobs,” he said.
The prime minister also blamed the wrong policies of the previous PML-N government for the recent increase in prices of foodstuff and essential commodities. He said when he took over the reins of government the country was importing commodities worth $60 billion, while exporting items of only $20bn.
He said the massive trade deficit of $40bn was bound to put pressure on the rupee, with led to a massive price hike.
Mr Khan asked Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to immediately get the Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) Act approved by the legislature so that best management practices could be introduced in public sector hospitals in Punjab.
“The public sector hospitals cannot be run at an optimum performance level until the hospitals’ managements are offered autonomy to put in place a carrot and stick system,” he said.
Regretting that poverty-stricken patients were the worst sufferers, he said that doctors and other hospital employees continued to get their salaries regardless of the quality of healthcare provided by them.
“The poor (patients) go to public hospitals (for treatment), the rich go to private hospitals but the filthy rich go to London,” he remarked to the amusement of the audience.
“Poor people don’t get quality treatment facilities because there is no accountability (in hospitals),” he said. “The health reforms under the MTI will streamline the management structure in public hospitals.”
The premier praised the efforts of Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid for being able to distribute Sehat cards among five million families across the province. “This is one initiative that will turn Pakistan into a welfare state on the pattern of Riyasat-i-Madina,” he said.
Mr Khan pointed out that the health card had given great political mileage to his party as it won the general elections of 2018 because of it.
He said his government had removed all duties on the import of medical equipment to facilitate the people in setting up private hospitals in the country, adding that “the government cannot establish new hospitals to meet the burden of ever-increasing population”.
The health card would empower the poor to get quality treatment at private hospitals, said the prime minister, adding “the healthcare sector will soon see revolutionary changes”.
He said his only motivation behind his struggle to establish the Shaukat Khanum Hospital was “the disappointment writ over the face of a poor labourer, who was told at the Mayo Hospital to buy medicines for his ailing brother who was fighting cancer”.
Mr Khan also chided various news channels for conducting what he called “agenda-driven interviews” of common people through clever questions about price hike. He said that Riyasat-i-Madina was not established in a day but took three to four years of hard work.
“I never claimed turning Pakistan into an Asian Tiger, but developing this nation on the principles of Riyasat-i-Madina.”
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2020