Government roasted over 106pc hike in petroleum levy

Published March 3, 2020
While Shahbaz issues condemnation, Sherry says the govt has given another jolt to the poor. — Reuters/File
While Shahbaz issues condemnation, Sherry says the govt has given another jolt to the poor. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have blasted the government over up to 106 per cent increase in the rate of petroleum development levy.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif not only “condemned” the increase in the levy but also called for a parliamentary investigation into this “organised scheme of looting billions from the nation”.

Similarly, parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the government had burnt another hole in the pockets of the poor citizens of this country with the increase in petroleum levy.

In a statement issued from London and released to the media here on Monday, Shahbaz Sharif said it must be investigated as why the government reduced diesel prices by just Rs5 per litre when the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority had proposed a reduction of Rs12.40.

“This government has no right to insult and deride the poor Pakistanis by posing to care about the impoverished when they have been caught red-handed stealing Rs10 billion every month from the nation through this levy. (PM) Imran is butchering the nation with his cleaver of inflation while pretending to be innocent and clueless about it,” the PML-N president said.

While Shahbaz issues condemnation, Sherry says the govt has given another jolt to the poor

He said this unacceptable levy of Rs25 on diesel, more than Rs19 on petrol and 105.5pc increase in the levy on kerosene was “brutal and beyond imagination”.

“The inflation in kerosene price is the highest since 2009 which is extremely condemnable,” he added.

The opposition leader said this injustice with the people of Pakistan despite drastic decrease in international oil prices must not go unaccounted for. “Despite looting the nation through similar schemes and scams with both hands, this government registered a Rs480 billion revenue shortfall in the first eight months of the running fiscal year,” he pointed out.

Mr Sharif said the increase of 12.4pc in the cost of edible items was unbearable. He reminded that not once during 60 months of the PML-N government did inflation touch double digits, but today it had shot up 14.4pc. He said as long as wheat and sugar thieves were running the country, the poor would continue to starve.

“This government’s transparency can be gauged by the fact that the so-called prime minister knows about the mafia but doesn’t say a word,” he said.

“Why hasn’t the investigation report on the wheat and sugar crises been made public? Why is Imran Niazi protecting the culprits? Why do these wheat and sugar thieves and hoarders enjoy the prime minister’s patronage?”

PPP’s Sherry Rehman said it appeared that by reducing petrol prices by a negligible Rs5, the rulers were just laying the groundwork for dropping the levy bomb that would send prices of several commodities across the country soaring.

“Even Rs5 reduction in petrol prices was inadequate when we see where the global oil prices stand. Globally, oil prices are down by nearly 30pc. It is unfortunate that when international prices go up the government is quick to shift its impact on the people but when they go down, the domestic prices are so disproportionately reduced,” she regretted.

“Agriculture, transport and small industries, all will bear the crippling side effects of the levy being imposed in addition to the gas and power tariffs already imposed on them. This is quite clearly an IMF-run government, incapable of protecting its citizens who have remained incessantly exposed to a vicious inflationary cycle,” Ms Rehman said.

“Why is the government’s policy not focused on widening the tax base and taxing the rich?”

So far, she said, the weight of all the additional revenue earning measures had fallen on the backs of taxpayers while the privileged few were busy profiteering from sugar and flour crises.

Recently, the PPP leader said, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority too had asked for a national power emergency to be declared with the circular debt swelling by a monthly average of Rs42bn. Overall, it has reached an alarming Rs1.93 trillion as opposed to the undervalued figures being provided by the power division, she added.

She regretted that all this was happening despite the regular hikes in power tariff.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020

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